Thank You for Being So Great: Tips from Shelly Gibson’s Session on Encouragement

Blog post Ashley ShawSREB Communications Specialist

A picture of Shelly Gibson at the beginning of her presentation

Prefer to listen? Check out the audio recording of this post instead.


If you ever want to feel special, just go to a presentation by Shelly Gibson. That’s the case, at least, when she is talking about how to make teachers feel appreciated.

Leading by example is a tip that you likely heard all throughout the 2023 Coaching for Change Conference, but Shelly took this tip a step further by actually putting it into practice. Before her session “Are Your Teachers Feeling the Love?” even started, she was showing why what she had to say mattered: She let everyone know how rewarding it feels to be acknowledged.

As you sat down, you were greeted by the friendly speaker, who gave you a sticker and a message of appreciation. (My sticker said, “Your influence can never be erased” which she handed me as she said, “You matter. What you do matters.”)

An image of a sticker with an eraser on it that says "Your influence can never be erased."

She may not have gotten to everyone…it was a packed room, after all…but I was impressed with how many different people I saw her go to as the start time drew nearer. Each person got a new message. She wasn’t just saying the same lines over and over.

People saying nice things to you makes you feel good. It makes you want to keep up the good work so that you earn more praise. It makes you want to keep being around the people who acknowledge your accomplishments. It makes you, in turn, want to support those around you.

This is why creating strong systems of support for your teachers is such an important part of the coaching role. Don’t take my word for it, though. Let’s get back to Shelly’s presentation, where she did a good job of making her own case. 

Someone as Great as You Will See Why Encouraging Teachers Matters

The presentation agenda was two-fold:

  1. Exploring why there is a teacher shortage and why those remaining deserve a lot of encouragement
  2. Sharing resources on helping them feel the love

l’ll break down this article in the same manner. Let’s first talk about the why, and then I’ll list some of the resources Shelly and the other coaches in attendance shared during the session.

Shelly started by listing some data:

Let’s do a little bit of a math equation here:

If more than half of a workforce says they feel unappreciated and more than half of all workers say that they would quit a job where they felt unappreciated, what does that mean for the teaching profession?

While it may not be the only cause of the teacher shortage, it certainly doesn’t help!

A picture of Shelly Gibson during the presentation

On top of this, though, is just the idea that part of a coach’s job is to encourage and support. That’s why a lot of the burden in helping teachers feel the love in your school will be on you.

Outside of teacher retention, here are just a few of the reasons Shelly mentioned for why working to encourage your teachers is so important:

  1. You form better relationships with your teachers when you show you value them.
  2. Better individual relationships lead to better teams.
  3. Praising the behavior you want encourages them to keep doing those behaviors.
  4. It makes everyone work hard to keep earning that praise. 

Hey, Coach Extraordinaire, Here Are 12 Ways to Show Your Teachers Appreciation

After convincing everyone that appreciation matters, the next part of the session focused on ways to show that appreciation.

This was a mix of Shelly’s own ideas along with group work where session participants worked together to list what they have done in their own schools.

A group of participants write down the ways they encourage teachers

Here are 12 ideas that came to light in the session:

  1. Create a place where students, faculty and staff, etc., can publicly praise teachers, such as a bulletin board where they can pin notes of encouragement.
  2. Give out trophies, pins, stickers or other swag to say thanks for a job well done.
  3. Do monthly birthday celebrations or bring a cupcake or their favorite candy on individual teachers’ days.
  4. Stop by their classroom just for a short “interruption” to say thanks in front of the class.
  5. Find ways to cover them during lunch, planning or non-classroom duties (like parking lot duty) so they can just go have a few minutes to relax.
  6. Leave a “love note” after each visit.
  7. Put a shoutout wall in the teacher’s lounge.
  8. Have team outings and seasonal celebrations.
  9. Offer positive feedback when you are working with them.
  10. Create a compliment tree.
  11. Hold a teachers-led award ceremony. (I personally envision this to be the SAG awards of teaching, where the faculty gets to pick the winners instead of the administration. After all, it’s nice being acknowledged by your peers too.)
  12. Put weekly shout-outs in things like the morning announcements or wherever else you spread general news.

Let’s Focus a Little on You: The Amazing, Awe-Inspiring Coach

While the whole presentation was targeted at coaches, a lot of the above could be done by anyone. It isn’t necessarily specific to you. So, let’s see what Shelly had to say about how coaches can establish a pattern of showing love for their teachers.

A picture of Shelly Gibson during her presentation.

  1. Start strongly — introduce yourself, explain your role and create positive interactions from the beginning.
  2. Take time to observe the teachers. It’s hard to praise them or offer them helpful feedback if you don’t know what they are like in the classroom…it’s also hard to make them think you really appreciate them when they know you’ve never seen them in action.
  3. After an observation, make time to have a reflective conversation with them that uses open-ended questions. Give them time to really share their own thoughts instead of just telling them yours.
  4. Make a point to gather teacher feedback through surveys, etc. Tailor your approach to their needs and wants.
  5. Find ways to develop your relationship outside of the classroom. Informal talks in the cafeteria and hallway can help develop familiarity.
  6. Give them professional development sessions that actually focus on their needs and interests.

Hey, Great Job! You’ve Reached the End! I Knew You Could!

Hopefully you’ve gotten a lot of great ideas for how to make your teachers feel appreciated, but you can find more by going through Shelly’s full presentation

And if you want even more coaching tips, you can read the first article in our 2023 Coaching for Change Conference series or you can go to our conference page

Keep your eyes out for the next two posts in this series, which you’ll find each Thursday right here on our blog.

Finally, don’t forget how special you are. Now, go make your teachers feel the love too!

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