Teaching is an ancient profession that dates back thousands of years. We often think of teaching as a career choice, but it goes far beyond the classroom and permeates every facet of our lives. Parents teach their children every day by modeling behaviors and providing guidance. We teach others how we want to be treated by demonstrating self-respect. We teach ourselves new skills by reading books and watching videos.

You may have heard the common expression, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Although this might be true in some cases, it’s clear that this is a gross over-generalization of the teaching profession. Many of the world’s greatest minds have also been celebrated professors—think of Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Stephen Hawking. Do you think they turned to teaching because they couldn’t make it in their respective fields?

May 7th through May 13th is National Teacher Appreciation Week. It is a time for us to recognize and thank the individuals who dedicate their time and energy to shaping the minds of others. We should reflect on the ways teachers give us knowledge, but also how they give us the tools to find knowledge on our own. A great teacher is not simply a lecturer, a great teacher shows us and helps us tap into our inherent potential.

You might be wondering how you can show your appreciation to the teachers in your life. Perhaps send them a card, a bouquet of flowers, a kind Facebook message? These are all wonderful ideas, but here are a few more suggestions:

A Restaurant Gift Card

Try finding out their favorite restaurant and gift them a certificate for their next meal there. Teachers spend countless hours inside their classroom and schools, so a gift that helps them enjoy their free time will be a welcome surprise.

Classroom Supplies

All too often, supplying a classroom with materials outside of the basics like paper and pencils falls to the teachers, so some have wish lists for classroom items. Ask your teacher friends what they need!

A Spa Treatment

Teaching can be as fulfilling as it can be tiring. The teachers in your life may not realize how much they could use a massage, a facial, or a pedicure to alleviate some of the stress their job puts on them, but they will likely appreciate it immensely.

Personalized Stationery

Nothing says thank you like a set of personalized stationery so teachers can send notes home to parents in style. Think, “From the desk of…” Sometimes the smallest things can mean the most, especially if it’s something your teacher friend wouldn’t normally spend their own money on.

An Insulated Water Bottle or Coffee Tumbler

Spending all day (and sometimes half the evening!) in a classroom means teachers have to work harder to stay hydrated. Try picking up a Hydroflask or something similar so those teachers in your life can stay hydrated and/or caffeinated throughout their day.

Office Equipment

This may sound strange, but think how much time and effort a teacher can save by having their own personal laminator or classroom printer. Become a teacher’s hero by saving them countless trips to the office!

When in doubt, just have a conversation with a teacher and ask what they need or want. The best way we can thank teachers for all that they do is by listening to and partnering with them to

Every day, teachers help create the writers, workers, engineers, and scientists of the future. Even if you do not have children, it is so important to thank a teacher for their immeasurable contribution to society.

Thank you teachers, this Teacher Appreciation Week and always!

-Sarah Catalfu, YWCA Literacy Council Literacy Coordinator