District-wide teacher appreciation events show thanks for school staff | AspenTimes.com

District-wide teacher appreciation events show thanks for school staff

Food trucks, gift card giveaway part of this week’s programming

Aspen School District teachers wait in line for The Rolling Fork food truck on the school campus while being celebrated for teacher appreciation week on Wednesday, March 5, 2021. The food truck roundup also included refreshments from Aspen Mini Donuts. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

After a year of challenging pandemic changes to learning at Aspen School District, local parents decided to “go big or go home” with a food truck roundup, gift card giveaway and other happenings for Teacher Appreciation Week, event organizer Alyssa Shenk said.

“It’s always important, right?” Shenk said while setting up for Wednesday’s food truck event. “But this year, it’s 1,000 times that. It’s important to give thanks in a big way.”

The food truck roundup with tacos from The Rolling Fork and pastries and coffee from Aspen Mini Donuts was new this year, according to Shenk. Normally, parent groups at each of the schools host their own potlucks, but with COVID-19 precautions in mind, organizers thought the outdoor food trucks with grab-and-go offerings would be a better bet.

Wednesday’s food truck offerings and a “Gift Card Grab” on Friday are both joint efforts organized by Aspen Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, the Aspen Middle School Parent Council and the Aspen High School Parent Group.

Other teacher appreciation events specific to each school have been spread out throughout the week with sweet treats, coffee, pastries and other items distributed to school staff.

This setup could become a tradition in years to come just as the potlucks were in the past, Shenk said.

“It’s important to continue these things from year to year,” Shenk said.

The past 13 months of COVID-19-related closures, hybrid learning models, online classrooms and pandemic-related academic challenges were all the more reason to honor Teacher Appreciation Week, which takes place nationwide each May.

“Look, it’s been a really hard year. It’s been a really exhausting year for everyone — parents and teachers,” Shenk said. “We just felt like we needed some extra appreciation.”

The gift card distribution Friday will go to all teachers and most student-facing school staff (like principals and assistants), with a selection of options to local restaurants and retailers like the Ute Mountaineer, Home Team BBQ and Mezzaluna as well as some certificates for services like photography sessions, according to Shenk.

Donations from local businesses and funds raised from the Aspen School District community supported the gift card stock. Shenk said it took only 36 hours to solicit enough donations.

The food truck roundup Wednesday was supported by funds from each of the three parent groups in the school district, according to Shenk.

“It is the smallest token of appreciation for people who have been the glue of our community this year,” said Sacha Hinderberger, a parent who helped organize teacher appreciation programming this week.

Tara Valentino, a longtime special education teacher in the Exceptional Student Services department at Aspen High School, was grateful for the signs of appreciation in a time that can demand twice the work of a normal academic year, she said.

“I’ve been a teacher for 11 years,” Valentino said. “The gratitude and celebration for all teachers is so appreciated, especially this past year.”