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Celebrating Teachers Who Accelerate Reading Growth

By: Kat Martinez-Perry 04/02/2024
Discover creative ways to celebrate growth and demonstrate appreciation toward teachers.
A group of teachers hold props while posing for a photo.

As a reading specialist, I support about 30 teachers across 14 campuses with our crucial Reading Acceleration program. Designed to provide that extra academic boost for students who need help reaching grade level, our proprietary program has become a standard class across our district, and it’s helping support our most vulnerable readers.

When teachers work with striving readers, especially in a middle school setting, it can be frustrating when you don’t see those huge leaps that you see in elementary school—for instance, a student going from not being able to read at all to be willing to read aloud at the end of the year. My colleagues and I wanted to create an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts our teachers are making and get them aligned on consistent instructional techniques around reading fundamentals while celebrating our heroic teachers.

The Growth Gala

We created an annual “Growth Gala” to spotlight our teachers and their students’ progress at the end of the school year. The gala brings teachers together to share best practices, highlight individual student stories, and present promising data points across campuses and classrooms. Last year was my first year organizing the event.

My predecessor themed the gala around movie awards night, which set the stage for a fun, end-of-year celebratory feel. We created formal, glitzy invitations in black and gold using a learning management system and sent one to each teacher. (Google Slides, PowerPoint®, or any kind of creation software would also work.) As an experienced instructional coach and campus leader, I’ve planned various events at different scales. The key to any successful event is getting buy-in from all the stakeholders.

Creating a Red Carpet Vibe

Imagine being greeted by a red carpet with stars featuring each of your teachers' names adorning the path like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The room was decorated in red and gold against a black backdrop with all the Hollywood glitz you can imagine. We invited teachers to dress up as much as they wanted to create that “fun and fancy” party feeling.

From there, we transitioned into examining districtwide celebrations. Then we narrowed our focus to individual student achievements. We dedicated time for teachers to give their acceptance speeches to express gratitude and highlight successes.

While the gala was an adults-only event, we prerecorded videos of some of the students thanking and celebrating their teachers and sharing what the Reading Acceleration class meant to them. The student videos were the highlight of the event because they were a powerful reminder of the impact teachers like you have every day.

At the end of the gala, we sent everyone off for the summer with cupcakes, because teacher celebrations must always have cake! The teachers absolutely loved it.

Reflections on the Gala

Sometimes, teachers like you don’t do a great job of celebrating yourselves. You’re so used to uplifting your students and making a big deal about their progress that you forget to acknowledge your own critical contributions. That’s why this gala is so important. It has now become a tradition in our school, and while it takes a bit of effort to pull it together, it is worth it to celebrate our amazing teachers and our students’ progress.

Want to hear more from Kat about the Growth Gala? Check out her episode of the Extraordinary Educators™ Podcast. Want to find out more about teaching effective reading techniques in your classroom? Check out our free Science of Reading webinar series.

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