By Jennifer Zaur
Adjunct Faculty, College of Education
I will never forget my first Teacher Appreciation Week.
I was teaching fifth grade at the time. I had a wonderful group of students, but there was one boy in my class who was a bit of a challenge. He knew exactly how far he could push things and always would fight me when I pushed him to excel in his academics.
One day, he came into my class with a huge smile on his face and a gift in his hand for Teacher Appreciation Week. As I pulled out a ceramic brown bear figurine with a rainbow trout hanging out of the bear’s mouth, Randy’s smile got even bigger.
I was a bit surprised. As I gave him a hug to thank him, he said, “I know you love bears. Do you like it?”
Now, this is not the gift that most teachers would expect for teacher appreciation (in fact we do not expect gifts at all), but this gift has meant the most to me out of any gifts that I have ever received.
From this gift I knew that all of my hard work and dedication throughout the year had paid off. I had built a strong connection with this student, and he knew that I cared about him. This is the gifts that teachers want for Teacher Appreciation Week: to know that they have made a difference in the lives of the children they have taught.
Teachers do what they do for moments like the one I had. Teachers want to know that all of the countless time they have put in outside of their contracted hours trying to figure out a new way to teach a skill that a child was struggling with, have mattered.
Teachers want to know that even when they feel like they have not made a difference with a child in their class, that the child knows that they have. Teachers want families to know that they care about their child and their child’s success as if the child were their own.
I knew that I had been this teacher for this student, and it inspired me to continue to be this teacher for each and every child that was ever in my class, no matter how much work it took.
Throughout your teaching career you will receive many tokens of appreciation, but I hope you are all as lucky as me to one day receive your own brown bear figurine. After all, the best ways to know you are appreciated as a teacher are surprises like this that you were not expecting.
More about Jennifer:
Jennifer is an adjunct faculty member at Grand Canyon University, teaching courses both online and on campus. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s degree in language and literacy from Arizona State University. Prior to starting at GCU, Jennifer was an elementary school teacher in Mesa teaching third, fifth and sixth grade. After she left the classroom, she became a reading interventionist and created a phonics-based intervention program for her school of 850 students. She also has experience mentoring new teachers, supervising student teachers and facilitating professional development around a variety of literacy topics. When Jennifer is not busy teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and four children. She also enjoys traveling and has been to several countries, including the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, France, Belgium, England, Italy and Mexico. One day she hopes to make it to her dream destination of Spain!