Working hard to honor school staffs

Parents meeting challenge of showing appreciation for teachers and others

May 06, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,special to the Sun

At Bollman Bridge Elementary School, Staff Appreciation Week will include massages and minifacials. At Hammond Middle School, all employees will receive custom-made bookmarks and several meals. Atholton High School is hosting a root beer float party, and Centennial Elementary School is asking students to bring in real or hand-drawn flowers.

Staff Appreciation Week, the first full week in May, was started by the national PTA in 1984. Each year, the event tests the creativity and resources of Howard County parents as they find budget-conscious ways to honor their schools' teachers and other employees.

Though parents say they are happy to recognize the hard work of school staffers, some say planning for the weeklong celebration can be challenging.

Most schools try to have at least one staff-appreciation meal, gift or activity each day of the week.

Most PTAs work with modest budgets and rely at least partly on donations from parents and businesses. This year, many schools are receiving donations from Super Suppers, a locally owned meal-assembly business. Many schools also encourage students to bring in cards, artwork or other gifts.

The national PTA offers suggestions on its Web site, including the simple and free (have parents e-mail messages of gratitude to teachers) and the more complex and expensive (make and distribute T-shirts or coffee mugs).

Most PTAs designate a single person to spearhead planning for the week's activities.

At Bollman Bridge in Jessup, that person is Emily Wofford. She's got the whole week planned.

Tomorrow is Gratitude Day, with parents and students encouraged to send in notes, flowers or cards; Tuesday is for facials and massages; Wednesday will feature a coffee reception with doughnuts; Thursday will have a luncheon; and Friday will feature a raffle.

At the start of the school year, Wofford learned that she would have $1,800 to spend on five staff meals throughout the year, including one during Staff Appreciation Week, Wofford said. That's not a lot of money to feed 113 people, she noted.

But Wofford said she comes from a big family, and she's used to being resourceful. A friend from her church is coming in to give staffers minifacials, she said, and the county is sending a masseuse through its school-wellness program.

"You're talking about the teachers," Wofford said, explaining why she's willing to do so much.

At River Hill High School, the PTSA is hosting a breakfast tomorrow and a lunch Friday. The school will be decorated in a blue ribbon theme to honor the school's designation as a Maryland Blue Ribbon School, said Katie Randolph, who is in charge of organizing the week's activities.

Randolph said she's received help not only from other parents but also from students, who are doing the decorations.

The breakfast will be supplied by parents who are encouraged to bring in their own home-baked goods, while the lunch will come from a local Subway, which is chipping in with desserts and drinks, she said.

At Atholton High, the PTSA does a staff appreciation activity once a month, so the first week in May is not such a big deal, said Susan Lustbader, staff appreciation co-chair for the school.

The festivities start with a welcome-back breakfast in August and include apple pie and ice cream for Thanksgiving and a chocolate extravaganza for Valentine's Day.

For Staff Appreciation Week, the PTSA is hosting a single event, a root-beer float party that will be held Wednesday after school.

"This is not one of our biggest events because we hope they feel appreciated all year," Lustbader said.

Hammond Middle School, on the other hand, is offering something every day of the week.

Tomorrow will be a breakfast of bagels, muffins and fruit. Tuesday, employees will get chocolate bars with custom-made labels.

Wednesday, they will be treated to cheesecake, coffee and desserts. Thursday will feature a luncheon. And on Friday staffers will receive a bookmark and be treated to a chocolate fountain, with strawberries, pineapples and pound cake to swirl into warm chocolate.

Mary Jo Fisher, Staff Appreciation Week coordinator for Hammond Middle, said organizing the meals and making the bookmarks had not been too burdensome.

She was able to make 75 bookmarks in a couple of hours by turning the assignment into a little party, she said.

"With the help of friends, it doesn't take that long," she said. "Everybody chips in and at the end it all comes out working pretty well."

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