Teacher Appreciation: It’s Even More Important Than You Think

Article by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: Thankfully, the attitude towards chinuch has changed in recent years. It is now time to change the attitude towards teacher appreciation gifts as well.

By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon – Cincinnati, Ohio

As we are finishing another – hopefully successful – school year and begin preparing for the joys of the summer, it is time to put a focus on something very important: Teacher appreciation.

Despite my inner feeling that people will judge this as a self-serving article, I am writing this for the greater good and toeles. 

I would like to start by sharing with you a true and telling story: Shortly after the Yeshiva in Cincinnati was opened, I met an old teacher of mine on Kingston Ave. This teacher was no longer teaching and was now in the insurance industry. He had heard that I had decided to invest myself into Chinuch and he had this important piece of life experience to share: “Don’t go into Chinuch for the appreciation, as it rarely exists in our circles.”

He then shared the following: “As you know, I spent a few years in Chinuch and I dedicated myself to my talmidim. There were many boys that I helped navigate the difficult teenage years and Baruch Hashem were able to grow to be successful in Yeshiva and life. Throughout these years, I rarely got any thanks or recognition from the parents of the boys that I was involved with. I figured that these people just don’t express appreciation. When I started selling insurance, some of these parents became my clients. Here is where I saw something fascinating: When I would let them know that I saved them $100.00 on a policy, they thanked me profusely!”

Times have changed, and Baruch Hashem, there has been a big awareness about this important topic and people have really begun expressing their sincere and deeply-felt appreciation to the educators of their children. Notwithstanding the above, I would like to share a few thoughts that might enhance your appreciation even more.

1) First and foremost, let us look at the example shown to us by our dear Rebbe. The Rebbe’s melamed was the Chassid, Rabbi Zalman Vilenkin a”h. The Rebbe would not sit down to start a farbrengen before Reb Zalman was seated and the Rebbe insisted on paying for his burial plot and having his matzeiva say that he was the melamed of the Rebbe! He would always say about his melamed that “Er hut mir avek geshtelt auf di fees—he put me on my feet.”  

2) The pride of Lubavitch today are the dedicated Shluchim of the Rebbe. Our hearts swell with nachas when we hear stories of their care and Mesiras Nefesh to help another Yid. At the same time, we must remember the following: The ahluchim are the “arms” of Lubavitch and the mosdos chinuch are the “heart” of Lubavitch. For strong arms to be successful, they need a functional and healthy heart. We must all internalize that the success of our mosdos chinuch – which is directly linked to our dedicated mechanchim – empowers the success of our Shluchim around the world.  

3) Today, more than ever, young and inspired couples are dedicating themselves to chinuch as a shlichus. Until about 20 years ago, when I was in kollel, the general attitude was that if a yungeman has social skills, charisma, creativity and personality – he definitely should use those qualities in outreach and shlichus. Those that were lacking many of the above-mentioned qualities would “by default” end up in the classroom.

A true story: A relative of mine, a shliach in a small town, had a son in a certain mesivta. The boy was naturally quiet and shy and had a difficult time initiating a conversation and relationship with members of the hanhala. A few months into the year, the father came to visit his son to see how he was adjusting. He went over to the mashpia of the class and encouraged him to reach out to his son. The mashpia listened intently and then replied: “Rabbi: If I had social skills- I would be a shliach!”

This, Baruch Hashem, has changed. Many of today’s young mechanchim are super-talented and energetic. They are using their skills and creativity to reach out and build everlasting relationships, and impact, on our children. They do this with much dedication and sacrifice: Sacrifice in ruchnius (there are still many that say that they are not “real shluchim”) and gashmius (a teacher – even excellent ones – get paid a limited salary. They really can’t use their great people skills to fundraise as they are investing everything into their talmidim).

While many are fortunate to be able to “properly vacation” in the summer, most mechanchim are not in that position. They may choose to get a summer teaching job (to help pay the basic bills) and many use the summertime to develop their teaching skills and abilities. 

As a rosh mossad, I know how many “end of the year” thank you notes, envelopes and presents the dedicated mechanchim receives.  While the percentage is nice, it is not enough. We must create an environment and culture where every single parent shows appreciation (it does not have to be financially connected) to the family of the mechanech of their children. This includes their wives who are partners in this special shlichus. They support their husbands and open their homes – seudos, farbrengens, etc – and many times bring the “motherly” aspects of Chinuch (homesickness, personal care, etc) to the attention of their husbands.

They are investing in your most precious “possession” (your child) – and should be honored, appreciated and thanked for doing so. They are building our future and it is time that we remove the condescending tone and language of “he is just a melamed” from our language and speak about this holy profession, which “hut mir avek geshtelt auf di fees” with the awe and respect it rightfully deserves.

Wishing everyone a “gezunte zummer” and Moshiach Now!

If you have comments, questions or ideas, please write in the comment section below or email me directly at [email protected]

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  1. During the covid year I decided to continue my “zoom teaching” past the last day of the “school year” since anyhow we were home and another 10 days of learning till family goes on vacation won’t hurt the boys. Obviously with incentives. 75% of the boys continued to log in daily. A mother was so touched of my effort, that she gave me her CC number and begged me to treat my family with Pizzas & Ice cream abundantly. I thought this was a 1 time gratitude. When Rosh Chodesh came, she texted me again to use her CC to party with my family the way they want. Three years have passed, and every Rosh Chodesh I am getting from her a warm text asking me politely to have a large Pizza party with my family… Even though I have none of her kids in my class, just plain appreciation.

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