Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Handmade Gift Ideas for Staff Appreciation

Our school recognizes paraprofessionals in April by celebrating "Para Week".  Each teacher and classroom takes the time to appreciate the hard work of its paraeducators and teacher assistants.  I did a little research, and unfortunately, learned that there aren't any national special days or weeks designated to recognize the hard work of paraprofessionals.  

However, I think any & every day is deserving to thank those who make our classrooms more successful. I'm the first to admit my classroom would not run effectively without the hard work and dedication of my staff.  I often joke with them that they are my brain.  Some of my best classroom tips and strategies come from them because they truly have the best interest of the students in mind.  Therefore, this week I am posting my top five ways to recognize classroom assistants.

1.  "Hand"some Bouquet - Help your students secretly make a bouquet of flowers made from their hand prints.  Simply trace their hands on colored construction paper and glue them together. 

Then, wrap them into a flower shape and hot glue the flower together using a colored popsicle stick as the stem and colored pom-poms as the inside. 

Next, have your students sign their names on their flower and place them in a vase with colored aquarium rocks inside.  Add a pretty ribbon and you have a gift your paras are sure to love!  

2. Show Off Their Greatness - Take vertical photographs of your paras working with the students. Download the photos to the Walgreens Photo Website and print as a pretend magazine cover.  

The cover I like to use is Woman’s World:Woman of the Year.  Put it in a nice frame and wrap it with student-decorated wrapping.  Your paras will smile when they open such a unique gift.  

This sample is of my son and his daycare provider.
It is so reassuring to know my kids are in good hands when I can't be there.
Parent Tip: Childcare Provider Day is Friday, May 10th this year.  Moneysaving Thought: Watch out for Walgreens' sales! You can often get 30 to 50% off of photo gifts and prints. 

3.  Paint Them a Masterpiece - When your paras are away, secretly have your students take turns choosing a paint color. Have them paint a few strokes across the same piece of paper.  Keep a list of what color each child chose. After each student paints, fold the paper in half to make the paint merge together for an abstract affect.  

When the paint dries, frame the painting in a nice frame with a mat, wrap it, and attach a special note that reads: 
    A special thank you for all that you do! This one-of-a-kind artwork was painted with you in mind. Each student painted with a different kind. . . Red by Jake, Brown by Kendall, Pink by Kathy, Orange by Jim, Blue by Payton, Dark Blue by Todd, White by Steve, Green by Mike, Dark Green by Julie,
    Teal by Stacy, Hot Pink by Emmitt, and Yellow by Douglas

    4.  Make Them Famous for the Day -  Help your students decorate crowns for your paras.

    Order personalized trophies that say "World’s Best ParaEducator" or "Number One Para".  I ordered mine from Crown AwardsNext, grab some red bulletin board paper for a ‘red carpet’ and have your paras walk the red carpet as your students clap and cheer for them. 

    5.  Give them a Taste of Home - Send out a note or email to parents that you are secretly collecting favorite family recipes for a special surprise for your paras. 

    You will be surprised by how into this your families will get!  Several of our families typed them out and added pictures of their kids cooking them or had their children draw special pictures on them.   

    Then, have your students help decorate a recipe box for them.  I got my recipeboxes in the craft section at Wal-mart.  My students decorated the boxes by using their hands to make various fruits and vegetables.  I added silly little sayings for each piece of produce.  

    • For the cherry - "You are ‘cherry’ cool!"
    • For the grapes - "You’re ‘Grape’!", 
    • For the carrot -"You ‘carrot’ about us!" 
    • For the bananas - "I am bananas for you." 
    • For the peas - "You are ‘pea’fect!  

    Note: I removed the class pictures to post this idea on the blog. However, the class pics definitely added a special touch to a wonderful keepsake!

    Teacher's Tip: These ideas could also be used for a variety of other occasions.  For example, we have made the painted masterpiece and recipe box as retirement, housewarming, going away and wedding gifts.  We have also used the handsome bouquet as a get well gesture.  They could be used as unique gifts for family and friends, too!  Keep in mind that Teacher Appreciation, School Nurse’s Day, and Secretary’s Day are just around the corner!! :)

    I hope you enjoyed my top five paraeducator appreciation gifts.  My only wish is that I could give my paras much more because that's what they deserve!!  Happy Paraeducator Week to my current paras Miss Penny and Miss Molly. . . I truly couldn't do it WITHOUT YOU!!!!! And to those who have worked in our classroom in the past: Miss Alaina, Miss Molly K, Miss Andrea, Miss Wendy, Miss Jolene, Miss Lori, Miss Rene',  Miss Kelsi, Miss Joelene, Mrs. LaFond and Mrs. Linenberger. . . each of you have made an impact on my life, as well as the lives of our students and their families.  Thanks for your love and dedication! 


    1. Those are sweet. Thanks for these helpful tips!

    2. Glad you liked them Elizabeth! Best wishes in making your own homemade gifts:)

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