Local group encourages Douglas County to recognize teacher, school staff contributions

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How can community members thank teachers for all their contributions during a tumultuous year that included a global pandemic?

Lori Lange, a mother of four grown children who attended Lawrence public schools, has some ideas.

She volunteers for Audio-Reader, and while reading aloud a newspaper from Sedalia, Missouri, she learned about a communitywide effort to thank healthcare workers.

“We’ve all been affected by COVID,” Lange said. “Teachers are on the frontlines too.”

After discussing the idea with others, the notion of recognizing K-12 teachers emerged. Lange and organizers launched a Facebook page for the effort, Supporting Staff of Douglas County Schools. And it grew to include staff beyond classrooms.

“Although teachers and instructors are literally the face of what happens in the classrooms (or on the Zoom screen), we want to recognize the combined efforts of all personnel: teachers; para-professionals; administrators; and those providing clerical, custodial, food, (Information Technology), and transportation services, etc., with a visual display of support from our communities,” the Facebook page tells visitors.

The campaign coincides with Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2 through 8. Last year activities took place mostly online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lange and organizers intentionally created materials without dates or locations to encourage communities across Douglas County to promote the appreciation effort anytime, anywhere.

Lange also collaborated with Lawrence Sign Up, a locally owned sign shop, to print banners, car decals and yard signs. Find the order form and pricing information here. The Facebook page also includes free at-home printables.

Lange said she would accept signage orders through Sunday, May 2. One benefit of the signage, she said, is that it’s reusable year after year.

“The signs are great, but you do not have to get a sign,” Lange said. “I’m gonna tie a bunch of ribbons in my tree in the front yard and put a printout in my car window.”

Lange said the color of ribbons will vary, although she’ll use white because it’s easily accessible around the house in items like sheets, plastic bags and paper. She said she’ll also promote the event on social media with photos and videos.

“I’m hoping it really gets out there on social media these next few days and that the staff are able to see a visual acknowledgment that we appreciate the hard work they do normally and at an even higher bar this last year. And it’s still going on. It’s not like it’s ended for them, it’s continuing,” Lange said.

Low- and no-cost options for thanking a teacher or staff member include writing a thank-you note, chalking messages of gratitude, creating art or a handmade card, and posting a shoutout on social media.

The National Parent Teacher Association encourages social media posts thanking teachers to include the hashtag #ThankATeacher. To access an online toolkit that includes templates for thank-you notes and certificates, click here.

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