Beth Simon

Goleman (2011) states:

The word ‘motivation‘ shares its root with’emotion’: both come from the Latin motere, to move. Our motives give us our aims and the drive to achieve them. Anything that’s motivating makes us feelgood. As one scientist put it to me, “The way nature gets us to do what it wants is by making it a pleasure.”

What keeps your staff coming to work each day motivated with a positive attitude? Have you ever asked? When teachers in early childhood programs are asked what is most satisfying about their job, the answer 9 times out of 10, is the children. In a position where a lot of strides still need to be made to educate the public and parents about the crucial learning that occurs in the first five years, along with leveling the compensation and wages for early childhood professionals, those working in child care can get easily discouraged. How can you prevent this from happening and how can you continue to motivate your staff to remain positive in this sometimes-overwhelming position?

It is difficult to find educated, motivated staff, who have what it takes to work in an early learning program, but how do you encourage them to stay and do so with excitement?

Here area few basic ideas to encourage staff morale and keep staff happy and excited about coming to work each day.

Training & Sharing

Provide newly hired staff with an orientation tailored to your program. Allow them to read the various handbooks and manuals and ask questions. This should be done over a period of time allowing the new teacher to get comfortable in his/her new classroom role, as well as getting familiarized with the expectations of paperwork completion, planning, and other deadlines.

Start a mentoring program. Pair a new teacher with someone who has been with the program. The new teacher can ask that teacher questions or share concerns and build a relationship.

On-going training for staff: Ask staff what interests them and either provide professional development on-site or find related PD on the PA Keys PD Registry.  Better yet, encourage teachers to find training on their own that interests them. If financial resources are available provide teachers with reimbursement for attending the training, conference, or workshop.

Encourage teachers who attend professional development workshops or conferences to share what they’ve learned during a staff meeting. This empowers your teachers to share what they’re learning and encourages teacher interaction.


Provide the tools that teachers need. This may be in terms of supplies, toys/materials,or furnishings for the classroom or this may be financial support for staff to travel to a conference or reimbursement for online training. When teachers have the supplies that they need, it reduces stress and it assists them in their ability to plan ahead for activities and projects.

Be willing or have extra staff to step in if a teacher needs a few minutes of prep time or to get away from a stressful situation, or even to use the restroom.

Working with many children and families of various backgrounds, education levels, and mindsets can be difficult. It’s important for teachers to know you have their back and support them in their classroom practices.


Planned meetings and informal daily communication is vital. Having regular meetings to share policy updates and procedural issues is important. Have staff help in the planning so meetings aren’t always about the director giving directives but allow some social time at meetings and time for teachers to share professional thoughts and ideas. Teachers who have common threads will ultimately respect one another and work better together in the classroom and across the program.

Teachers need to know who will be out sick or who’s arriving late. Have a system in place to relay daily messages with classroom teachers. If you’re using a new app or if parents can text or email directly with teachers, it may be easier for parents to share information about their child.


Who doesn’t like to be complimented on a job well done? Be sure to point out the positives. Compliment a fun art project or bulletin board, share a compliment from a parent, express gratitude to teachers who are showing commitment and dedication no matter how big or small.

Depending on your staff and what they want, there are lots of ways to show recognition.You can write hand written notes or cards to tell them about the good job they’re doing, you can have an “employee of the month” nominated by other teachers so that it would be their peers recognizing the work they’re doing, or you could do a staff appreciation day or luncheon.

Our Program Quality Assessment team meets quarterly, and we give one another notes of gratitude. It may be “Thanks for listening” or “I liked your idea about…” or “I appreciate your perspective on this issue.” Notes can be anonymous, or you can include your name; it’s a nice way to appreciate someone for the everyday things that they do.

You can find other suggestions for recognizing your staff in this article: Enhancing Staff Morale – More Than Pizza and Donuts  

In summary, there isn’t a right or wrong way to motivate your staff, but it is imperative that teachers feel respected, supported, and appreciated to remain motivated to continue their work with children. It may take some trial and error to find what works for you and your teachers, so don’t lose hope. When teachers feel valued and appreciated they’ll adopt a positive attitude that will be contagious!

If you’d like to share a unique way of how you appreciate your teachers and build staff morale please share in the comments below.

Additional Resources:

Motivation: What Moves Us? 

Building a Positive and Professional Work Environment for your Staff 

9 Fun Ideas for Employee Recognition at your Center

Child Care Business: Motivate Your Staff With These Four Tips  

D Goleman. (2011, December 28). Motivation: What moves us? [web log comment]. Retrieved from

Tags : Motivating TeachersMotivationTeacher Appreciation

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