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6 Fresh Ideas For School Staff Recognition
Mary Ellen Rowe and Morgan Delack

It’s been a challenging year...or three. Talk with any teacher or staff member in your district these days, and it doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn to the heavy burdens on their shoulders as the pandemic wears on. It’s also the time of year for those national recognition days that seem to creep up every year: National custodians day, social workers day, principals month, to name a few. 

In the times that we are living through, the same old staff recognition ideas just don’t seem to cut it anymore. It’s time to take things to the next level with some simple ideas to show employee appreciation. 

1. Celebrate Employees on Social Media

Social media is a great vehicle to show your staff they are valued. Never underestimate the power of likes, shares and comments! Seeing those numbers rise and meaningful comments pour in can make your team feel like a celebrity, even if just for a little while. 

Oakland Schools ISD started a #DistrictStars campaign on Facebook as a simple gesture to highlight staff doing great things. The result was a highly engaging campaign that not only validated staff, but gave the community something to smile about.

Richfield Public Schools ran a social media campaign for National Principals Month that could easily be recreated for those other recognition dates coming up soon. Using the hashtag #ThankAPrincipal, the district highlighted each principal with a quote and photo on their social media pages. The campaign got great engagement and it’s safe to say the principals felt the love, too!

Richfield takes their social feeds one step further by embedding them on their Finalsite website, using Finalsite Feeds. This ensured that people who may not be on social media could also view the recognition campaign when visiting the district’s website. 

2. Give Shout Outs in Employee Newsletters

Schools often limit notes of praise for staff to social media alone. There are many other ways to incorporate appreciation, including your internal employee newsletters. 

Adding a permanent section to your newsletter for peer to peer appreciation is powerful, and showcasing it in a formalized way in your employee newsletter is a visible and meaningful way to show praise. 

Ferndale Public Schools employees recognize one another with Staff Shout-Outs, which are posted on the district website each month as part of the district’s monthly Employee eNewsletter. Built using Finalsite’s Content Management System, Finalsite Composer, this is an easy and effective way to show appreciation.

3. Honor Staff on Your Website

Your website is the front door to your district and the one-stop-shop for information. Why not use your most trusted communications tool to show staff appreciation as well?

Carmel Clay Schools in Carmel, Indiana has tapped into a rich resource to help them with this task: their parent teacher organizations! Powered by Finalsite’s Composer, each school within the district has a dedicated page for its PTO. Cherry Tree Elementary’s PTO has developed a section filled with ideas for showing staff appreciation — a rich resource for parents looking for ideas on how to say “thanks.”

Mansfield Independent School District uses its website news section to share stories of thanks during national appreciation days. The district’s communications team paired a touching story with a fantastic video to consolidate their appreciation efforts into one post that’s prominently displayed on the district website.

Tulsa Public Schools uses one of its most prominent pieces of website real estate to show thanks to staff: The homepage hero image!

When one of its teachers was named a finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, they shouted it from the rooftops, making sure that everyone who visited the Tulsa Public Schools website knew about it. Lesson learned: Don’t be shy about using your hero image (or homepage) to put your staff in the spotlight.

Video can be extremely powerful and a great way to highlight staff on the web! The team at Summit Public Schools incorporates Teacher Feature videos to their website to highlight some of their excellent educators. These short videos take us into the classroom and spotlight district teachers who are making a difference. Washington Elementary School Second Grade Teacher Laura Madden said in her Teacher Feature video, “Children remind you every day that the world can be such a happy, thriving place.”

Summit School screenshot

4. Give Out School Swag and Freebies

Gifting school or district swag is a great way to say thanks while also promoting your district brand that you’ve worked hard to develop. Everyone loves free swag, right?! This doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Consider purchasing stickers, pens, notebooks or even socks with your district branding and gifting them to employees as a way to say thanks for a job well done. Some of these items can be purchased for less than a dollar per unit, and are great to have on hand for other occasions, too!

Clarkston Community Schools also rewards employees with freebies like free smoothies donated by a local shop, and other Employee Perks designed to make life easier. Even if your district doesn’t have partnerships with local businesses for staff discounts and freebies, it’s easy to compile a list of national deals for educators on your website. Establishing an employee hub on your website is a great way to provide quick access for your busy staff to come back to again and again.

5. Recognize them at Board Meetings 

A public thank you can go a long way when it comes to building employee morale. If you don’t already have staff recognitions as part of your school board meeting, consider making this a regular feature that both employees and the board can look forward to. It not only allows the opportunity for very public and meaningful recognition, but also can break up the monotony (and sometimes negativity!) of the board meeting.

Keeneyville School District has formalized board of education staff recognition called “board salute” that allows people to nominate an employee or member of the community for the special recognition. The formality of the program makes it such an honor to be chosen each month! It’s also an easy way to incorporate those national recognitions in the mix.

6. Write Handwritten Notes

Digital ways of sharing appreciation are great, but there’s nothing quite like receiving a handwritten thank you note in your mailbox. According to Psychology Today, the power of a handwritten note is often underestimated by both the giver and receiver. Taking the time to write a note to a staff member who went above and beyond, or acknowledging them during a staff appreciation day can often be easier than pulling together a social media campaign or a video but also more meaningful.

If you have a large district and this task seems daunting, involve your administrative team in the process. Assign each team member one note to share the load. Staff will be surprised and thankful to hear from a variety of administrators. 

Key Takeaways 

During year three of COVID, school staff are craving recognition more than ever before. To make the biggest impact, try new ways of showing thanks and praise ranging from digital to in-person opportunities. 

Meet With a Website Expert | Finalsite

Mary Ellen Rowe headshot

Mary Ellen Rowe is a Finalsite education sales consultant with more than 15 years’ experience directing public and private K-12 school communications. She’s passionate about helping #SchoolPR pros brainstorm challenges, engage their communities, and tell their district’s story. Mary Ellen lives in the Detroit suburbs with her husband, three teenagers, and a dog named Pete.


Morgan Delack Headshot

Morgan Delack is Finalsite's Director of Communications, leading the marketing team's public school content, branding initiatives and professional development events. Morgan's background is a mixture of public school communications and television journalism, having worked in both industries for several years. She was named among NSPRA's 35 under 35 and has earned two Emmy Awards for her work in broadcasting. Morgan lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two kids. .

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