American Education Week


The history of American Education Week (AEW) dates back to the World War I era when it was discovered that 25% of the draftees were illiterate. Alarmed by this staggering statistic, representatives from the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Legion teamed together in 1919 to determine ways to rally support for quality public education for all Americans. 

In 1921 the first observance of AEW took place with 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.” (National Education Association)

This year the 98th annual AEW takes place on November 18-22, complete with the theme - “Reach. Educate. Inspire.” In recognition of educators, parents, administrators, education support professionals (including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, office staff, etc.) and substitute teachers  - the NEA describes AEW as: “A wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education.” It truly takes a village to educate the 50 million K-12 kids here in the United States.

Outlined below are a few of the many ways your school can participate in AEW every day of the week:

  • On Monday, November 18, kick off the week by having students design artwork that reflects this year’s theme, “Reach. Educate. Inspire.” Artwork can be displayed in school and within the community (the post office, library, etc.) to promote AEW. Consider organizing a door decorating contest to give students the opportunity to show off their creativity and spread their pride for public education throughout the school.


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  • According to the NEA, studies indicate significant benefits of parental involvement including an increase of student achievement and a reduction of absenteeism. Encourage parents and guardians to take an active role in their children’s education by inviting them to accompany their children to school on Tuesday, November 19 for National Invite Parents to School Day. (Click on the live link for a sample letter to customize and send home to promote the event.) Invite parents to have lunch with their child, read a book during story time to the class, work on an art project with their child, or sit in on their child’s favorite class. Consider shining the spotlight on the students by having them prepare a presentation for parents. For example, students could demonstrate a technology tool that is used in the classroom to illustrate the progression of education.


  • Wednesday, November 20 is set aside specifically for Education Support Professionals. As described by the NEA, education support professionals keep schools running and students safe, healthy, and ready to learn. Give your students the opportunity to honor their favorite cafeteria workers, office staff, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, resource officers, health aides, and custodians by writing letters of gratitude and/or creating thank you cards to show appreciation. Or consider having students work alongside education support professionals by serving food and assisting the custodians to gain a deeper appreciation for the work they do. Check out this brief, yet informative video about the essential roles education support professionals play in schools.



  • Give community leaders the opportunity to wear the many hats (and fill the big shoes) of a teacher by promoting Educator for a Day on Thursday, November 21. The Massachusetts Teacher’s Association deserves credit for this brilliant idea, which helps bring awareness and understanding of the significant roles and responsibilities of educators and underscores the need for adequate resources available to effectively serve students.


  • As the NEA put it, substitute teachers play a critical role in education by serving as “a bridge to provide continued quality education to children in the temporary absence of regular classroom educators.” Honor the wonderful substitute educators of your school on Friday, November 22 with a special certificate in recognition of their commitment to education. (Certificates designed by the NEA can be downloaded and printed here.)

Looking for more ideas? Browse through this list of tried and true ideas from past AEW observances provided by the NEA. 

Happy American Education Week, incredible educators! 


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Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin. 

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