Uniting School Administrators to Create a Better World

Recognizing Your Teacher Rock Stars – Thinking Out of the Box

I just finished Dave Ramsey’s book, EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches, and I plan on reading it again. It is filled with so many great ideas of how to lead effectively. It’s primarily for business owners, but as with many of the “business leadership” books I’ve read, there are so many connections to what we do as school administrators.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more of what I learned in future posts, but I was really impressed with his chapter on Recognition.

Dave shares how his company goes above and beyond to recognize and reward his team members when they do great work. He talks about commissions and bonuses and even profit sharing programs that his company implements to keep his team members motivated.

Dave shares that, “The feeling and reality of acceptance gives people the best opportunity to be their best.”

“People yearn for approval. People yearn for appreciation. People yearn for attention. People yearn for affection.”

After 26 years in educations, I’ve found that we really don’t do a great job of recognizing our teachers and staff members.

We give teacher of the year awards to how many? One?

And what do they get? A photo on the wall somewhere? A pin or a ring?

What about all the other amazing teachers who were award-worthy? What do they get?

I know that every school has hard-working, kid-loving, life-impacting, amazing teachers who do their job because they love what they do. What kind of recognition do they get?

I know what some will say. Teachers don’t do it for the rewards or recognition. The joy of teaching is reward enough.


In most of the books I’ve read, the most successful leaders communicate to their “followers” that they are appreciated and valued. How well do we do this as school administrators?

I wonder.recognize teacher rock stars

I believe that as school administrators, we need to fill our days with moments of encouragement. We need to make it a point to be a leader that recognizes and rewards the amazing people on our school site. I believe we need to start thinking out of the box to find ways to recognize and reward those on our staff who are doing amazing things. Otherwise, we run the risk of being a leader of a staff full of unmotivated and uninspired teachers.

How do we do this, Sam?

In business, leaders can use cash to give bonuses or other gifts. In education, however, that’s not so easily done. Still, whenever possible, I believe school administrators need to find the money to offer tangible rewards that can be given as recognition for a job well done.

I know that most of the school funds are earmarked for specific educational needs. I know there isn’t a budget code for teacher recognition, but we have to find the money.

What’s a more effective use for our funds? Purchasing an educational program that unmotivated teachers will be forced to implement or spending the money on a catered teacher-appreciation lunch once a month.

“But we can’t do that, Sam.”

Again, I know about the guidelines for use of funds for a school, but this is where school administrators need to be a little creative.

So many school administrators are spending their days trying to fix the unmotivated or incompetent teacher or staff member. It’s all about course correcting.

I like what Dave says, “Fight the tendency to only course correct.” It’s important to look for the areas where improvement can be made, but it’s also important to recognize and reward the areas where people are excelling.

Here are a few ideas how you can show appreciation to your rock star teachers.

  1. Compliment – When was the last time you told one of your teachers how amazing they were? “Hey that was a great lesson today. You were a rock star in class. Thank you for time you invested in making that such a great experience for the kids.”
  1. Hand-written note – I promised that I would do this at least twice a week, and I haven’t kept my promise. I get so busy, but that’s no excuse. I need to make the time to write out a note to my teachers. It means more to them than you think.
  2. Digital note – Send an email to the teacher or staff member letting them know that you noticed them being amazing. This is not as powerful as a hand-written note, but it’s a lot better than nothing.
  3. Nominate for Teacher of the Week – I like doing this. I wrote about our Hero of the Week Award program that we started at our school. Teachers appreciate these nominations. I was nominated today, and it made me feel special.
  4. Gift – This might be a little tricky with budgets and such, but giving something that teachers can actually use is nice. Examples are: gift cards, school t-shirt, school supplies, posters for their room, etc. Again, we need to find the money.
  5. Lunch – Find money to buy teachers lunch. My principal once bought me lunch out of his own pocket, and it meant so much to me. How about a surprise catered appreciation lunch for the staff? Make it a big deal with speeches and special recognition awards for your top teachers.
  6. Parking spot – Designate a special parking spot for your rock star teachers. This is something that doesn’t cost much money. I have a 2″x1″x5′ pole that I stuck in a caution cone with at sign that reserved the parking spot for our Hero of the Week. Easy Peasy.
  7. Time off – Another tricky one, but if it works out, you can offer to cover a teacher’s class for a period, so he/she can relax in the staff lounge for a while. Another idea, if you have periods, allow the teacher to leave early one day, so they can beat the traffic and spend more time with their family.
  8. Public recognition – Give a teacher a shout out in the staff meeting. Post the shout out on your school’s Facebook page. Interrupt his/her class to thank him/her in front of the students for being a rock star teacher. I heard someone say that for some people, the last time they had anyone clap for them was at their high school graduation. Let’s applaud our hard-working teachers. You know that most of them deserve a standing ovation.
  9. Non-staff meeting – Turn a staff meeting into something fun. I had an administration that put together a ping-pong tournament for the teachers instead of having a staff meeting. That is cool.


We have to think out of the box sometimes to make our teachers feel valued and appreciated.

After reading this section in Dave’s book, I spent the day looking for ways to build up teachers and other members of my staff. Instead of looking for what’s wrong, I celebrated the good things that people were doing. I must say, it was one of the best days I’ve had as a school administrator.

I need to do this more often.

What kind of things do you do to recognize your teachers? I would love to hear about them. Please share.

Until next time, here’s to your journey toward School Administration Mastery!

Thank you,




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