American Education Week happens the week prior to the week of Thanksgiving. Each day of the week has its own theme, during which we celebrate our public school community.
Festivities honor the team of people who work in our nation’s public schools, everyone from the bus driver and classroom teacher to the cafeteria worker and administrative staff, plus countless others.
Celebrate AEW on social media by sharing our official artwork or find more ideas in the sections below.
Monday, November 16: Kickoff Day
Across the country, schools will celebrate excellence in education by hosting kickoff events and activities.
Ideas for Celebrating
- Familiarize students with American Education Week, including theme and celebration days, in the morning announcements on Monday and throughout the entire week, highlighting the observance of the day.
- Share our official artwork on social media.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can thank public school educators for their service or thank the community for its support of public schools. You can also encourage the local paper to write an editorial about public schools and American Education Week.
- Have students write an essay, “What I Would Do if I Were the School Principal” and share the best ones.
- Hold a poetry reading on the topic, “What I Like Best About My School.”
- Have students make cards showing support for their educators.
Tuesday, November 17: Family Day
On this day, schools across the nation invite parents into the classroom to experience what the day is like for their child.
According to experts, parents need to take an active and assertive role in their children's education on a daily basis for optimal success at school. Ongoing research shows that parental involvement in schools improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism, and restores confidence among parents in their children's education.
Parental involvement means reading to your children, checking homework every night, limiting television viewing on school nights, developing a relationship with your child's teacher, and simply asking children about their school day. Whatever the level of involvement, it is important to be consistent in order to make a difference in your children's lives.
National Invite Parents to School Day represents NEA's vision of calling upon all Americans to do their part in making public schools great for every child so that they can grow and achieve in the 21st century.
Ideas for Celebrating
This year, it's not feasible to have parents physically in schools, but there are other ways you can involve parents.
- Invite parents virtually into your classroom via video conference to read to students, talk about their career, or share other educational information outside the normal curriculum. If the parent is tech-savvy, have them record a video you can show.
- Send or email preprinted "apple" papers with places for students to fill in favorite subject, best time of day, or what they liked about their classroom or teacher, and a section for parents to write their school memories. Share in class or online.
NEA and WETA PBS Partnership
NEA has teamed up with PBS station WETA to offer expert tips and resources to help educators and families navigate distance learning. Use these resources to make sure that learning continues—no matter where it takes place.
Wednesday, November 18: Education Support Professionals Day
Education Support Professionals Day was first celebrated in 1987 after NEA’s Representative Assembly, the Association’s decision-making body of nearly 8,000 member delegates, called on the organization to honor the contributions of all school support staff. National ESP Day is observed on Wednesday of American Education Week.
This year we have seen ESPs go well beyond anything we have seen before as they work to meet the needs of our school communities in the midst of a pandemic. On ESP Day, join us to honor and advocate for the ESPs who continue keeping students safe, healthy, and ready to learn.
Ideas for celebrating:
Host a virtual appreciation event for ESPs in your school or district using a video conferencing platform. Share photos (or screenshots) of the event on social media.
Arrange a safe food or gift delivery for ESPs in your school or district.
Encourage teachers, students, and parents to mail or email a thank you letter to ESPs in their schools.
Give a social media shout out to ESPs who have been going above and beyond to help school communities during this pandemic. You can get creative through photos, videos, and more! Use #WeLoveOurESPs in your posts.
Thursday, November 19: Educator for a Day
Normally community leaders would be invited to experience the day as educators and experience the challenges of teaching and the needs of students, with the guidance of school employees.
The visiting educator would perform all the duties of a regular school employee in a normal work day—teaching class, performing lunch and corridor duty, recess supervision, working in the cafeteria, among other responsibilities.
The program, originally developed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, enhances understanding among educators and community leaders. In addition, it demonstrates to public officials and other decisionmakers, the successes and challenges our educators face and underscores the need for adequate staffing, materials, and facilities for students.
This year, having community members come into the classroom is not an option for many schools as they implement their distance learning or building reopening plans. However, educators can be creative about marking the day in other ways.
Ideas for Celebrating
- Invite members of the community virtually into your classroom via video call to read to students, talk about their career, or share other educational information outside the normal curriculum.
Ask students to dress as if they were in their future career and talk about that profession’s role in the community.
Friday, November 20: Substitute Educators Day
Substitute educators play a vital role in the maintenance and continuity of daily education.
Substitute Educators Day is a result of the National Education Association Representative Assembly's New Business Item 2003-41, which called for an increase appreciation of school substitute employees. These professional educators provide a critical link in the education of public schoolchildren by serving as a bridge to provide continued quality education to children in the temporary absence of regular classroom educators.
Substitute Educators Day seeks to:
- Encourage increased respect for substitute education employees
- Advocate for all school substitutes to receive wage and health benefits for those who work most to all of a full school year
- Receive genuine, continual professional development in the art of substitute teaching
- Provide a reminder for school staff on effective practices to prepare for, welcome, and support substitute educators
Substitute Educators Day is observed on Friday during American Education Week.
Ideas for Celebrating
- Arrange a schoolwide recognition of substitute educators in the read-aloud school bulletin, or on the intercom announcements.
American Education Week History
The National Education Association was one of the creators and original sponsors of American Education Week.
Distressed that 25 percent of the country's World War I draftees were illiterate and 9 percent were physically unfit, representatives of the NEA and the American Legion met in 1919 to seek ways to generate public support for education.
The conventions of both organizations subsequently adopted resolutions of support for a national effort to raise public awareness of the importance of education. In 1921, the NEA Representative Assembly in Des Moines, Iowa, called for designation of one week each year to spotlight education. In its resolution, the NEA called for: “An educational week ... observed in all communities annually for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs.”
The first observance of American Education Week occurred December 4-10, 1921, with the NEA and American Legion as the cosponsors. A year later, the then U.S. Office of Education joined the effort as a cosponsor, and the PTA followed in 1938.
Other co-sponsors are the U.S. Department of Education and national organizations including the National PTA, the American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary, the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National School Public Relations Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
American Education Week is always celebrated the week prior to the week of Thanksgiving.