Student Appreciation Certificates (a warm fuzzy)

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by Diane Burdick, M. Ed.

Believe it or not, one of the fondest memories of my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Krause, was forged the last day of school.

Once the school desks where pushed to the side of the room, all the supplies were put up, and the room cleaned from top to bottom, Mrs. Krause called us to the center of the room where we sat down in a large circle. She told us how much she had enjoyed the year getting to know each one of us in her classroom, then presented us each with our own individual award certificate.

Instead of a generic certificate that said something like “great job this year,” Mrs. Krause awarded each student a personalized certificate that showed specifically why that student was special to her. For example, the shyest kid in the class, who gave her a hug every morning when he walked into the classroom, received the “Best Hugger” award. She passed out a “Sleepiest” award to the child who showed up late to school most mornings because she had overslept, and she awarded the “Where Is It?” award to the child who forgot her homework and permission slips most often.

Although it didn’t take much time for Mrs. Krause to physically create each award—she used a certificate from the local teacher supply store—she did take the time to think of why each child was special, which is a great way to leave a lasting impression from the school year.

How to Create Your Own

This year, consider forming a short list of the things that make each student in your class unique, and then create a special award for each student. Four easy places to start:

1. Purchase a pack of customizable paper certificates like these achievement certificates or this “awesome” award (shown right) from The School Box.

2. Or open up the “certificate” setting in your Word software. Download the free printable/savable pdf of the four award stamps featured below right, to add to your awards. Click here for download: Award Stamps. 

3. Or download an award from

4. Or use one of these great printable certificates from

Consider adding your school mascot or logo to further personalize the awards.

The Award I Earned

When I got home that day from school, I proudly showed my mother the certificate Mrs. Krause had given me. While my mom wasn’t thrilled that I received the “Where Is It?” award, I was touched that my teacher would turn something that could have been a frustration into something that became an endearment.

As teachers, we’re all eager to end the year with a bang, and we’re all excited (let’s admit) about the prospects of summer. But, let’s also remember that we can make a lasting impact on our students with a gesture as simple as a hand-written certificate. Decades later, I still remember fifth grade–and, yes, Mrs. Krause–fondly. 



Filed under Academic Success, Activities, Classroom Community, Motivation, Teaching

4 responses to “Student Appreciation Certificates (a warm fuzzy)

  1. Kay Wallin

    This is a wonderful idea. I work with alternative middle school students, who rarely get special recognition for the good things they do. Just that small note of encouragement might make a big difference in the way they perceive school and education.

  2. Priscella Key

    I love this idea and have done the very same thing in my classroom for the past 3 years! I teach special needs students in grades K – 5. I realized my first year of teaching that I was not going to be able to give them traditional awards and that would exclude them from participating in the school’s award ceremonies. I decided to make a list of things that are special about each student and also their biggest gains. I went to my local School Box store and purchased blank awards. I sent out invitations to parents, school faculty and staff, and to the 4th and 5th grade students that help out in my class each week. My studenst were so excited to make cookies and practice accepting their awards (they had never received awards before). The day came, more people that I was expecting showed up, and my students were thrilled! I gave out awards for things such as “Best Smile”, “Best manners”, and “Most Cheerful”, It has become a very heartwarming tradition in my school. The parents tell me that it means so much to them that I see and recognize the best qualities of their child. I know that general education students need this recognition just as much and it doesn’t cost very much or take very long to make these awards!

  3. Jennifer Nuss

    Thanks for this. I have seen this idea but it was a great reminder. It was even better because it meant something to you that your teacher did this for you. It reminded me why I do this. Thank you, I will be doing this at the end of the year and hopefully I will forge a memory.

  4. Wendy

    I really like all the ideas here. It is always good to start the year with a
    positive atmosphere. I also plan on doing Bucket Fillers next year.