Event on Friday will celebrate teachers as the 2023-24 school year ends

Educators celebrate their work at Sagebird Ciderworks at the end of the 2022-23 academic year. (Photo courtesy of Amberlee Carlson)

As teachers across the Valley take a collective sigh of relief as another school year comes to an end, an event in Harrisonburg on Friday will celebrate them and other school staff for their work. 

The Educator Appreciation Event will be held this Friday from 3-7 p.m. at Sage Bird Ciderworks. It also happens to coincide with the last day teachers will have students in Harrisonburg’s classrooms. 

Emily Heatwole, the lead organizer, said the event is a way to “celebrate the educators and school staff for their hard work over the last academic year.” 

This is the fourth year that Heatwole and the Valley Chapter of the Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children have hosted the event. Heatwole began the event during the 2020-21 school year to give teachers a well-deserved thank you after enduring such a stressful year in the wake of COVID-19. 

Heatwole worked with Sage Bird owners’ Amberlee and Zach Carlson, and they have hosted the event ever since. 

Teachers and school staff from all districts across the Valley are invited to attend, as well as teachers at private schools, preschools and daycares. 

Teachers and staff will receive discounts on food and drink at Sage Bird. Everyone who purchases a drink will receive a steel pint glass, and Sage Bird will feature the “Teechy Keen Cocktail,” a signature drink made only for the event. 

Teachers and staff will be entered into a raffle that will feature over $3,000 in giveaways if they present a school ID or proof of employment. 

Businesses across the Valley have donated various gifts, including gift cards and other goodies, to recognize educators. Heatwole said one out of every three attendees won prizes last year.  

Every 20-30 minutes, organizers will call out three to five raffle drawings. As long as educators are entered into the raffle, they do not need to be present to win. Winners can pick up prizes at Sage Bird at their convenience. (Sage Bird hosts a happy hour for educators and school staff every Friday.)

A photo booth will also be on-site for the evening, complete with props, and digital copies can be sent to devices. 

In past years, the event was held the week following the end of school, but organizers felt that celebrating the last day was more appropriate. 

“We really felt like we wanted to capture that relied and that excitement for summer,” Heatwole said. “That celebration of another successful year.” 

Heatwole said the event is special for educators because of the comradery of having fun with colleagues and the appreciation teachers feel each year after the event. Heatwole said the most meaningful memories are when teachers tell her they feel appreciated.

While organizers hope that educators RSVP to the event, all educators are welcome to “simply show up.” 

“I wanted an event where teachers could sit and relax, a place where they could be totally done with the workday and have a phenomenal time with their colleagues,” Heatwole said. “And if they happen to win prize, that is a bonus.” 

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