Staff Countdown to Holiday Break

Make the crazy days of December better for everyone.

staff countdown

Need a way to keep morale up and staff energized this month? We have you covered with this Staff Countdown to Holiday Break!

Tons of talented administrators and school leaders have been sharing the ways they use a countdown-type of activity each year in the busy month of December. With the many emotions associated with the holidays and anticipation of days off of school, this time of the year can be super challenging for students and teachers alike.

The idea for the countdown to holiday break is super simple and can be done in a number of ways.

Ultimately, this is a way to have staff look forward to each day of the month, each day they come to school. Either the staff is given a small treat each day, or there’s a challenge to complete each day. Some schools ask that staff turn in their countdown sheet on the last day before break in order to be put into a drawing for bigger, more exciting prizes. 

No matter how it’s done, the administrators in our group tell us that doing something like this for their hardworking staff brings them great joy.

Michelle Dietrich is the principal of Steenrod Elementary School in Wheeling, West Virginia and says she is “looking forward to sharing [her countdown] with the staff! Love the idea that they’ll expect something each day, but they don’t know what it will be!”

Dietrich starts her countdown this week and really tries to align her 12-Day countdown to the 12 Days of Christmas. Her countdown includes things like:

(WARNING: Spoiler alert for Steenrod Elementary School staff!)

  • A cardinal in a pear tree … and other assorted fruit
  • Dove chocolate treats
  • French Horns in the staff lounge
  • A CALLing Card (Come A Little Late)
  • Jeans Until January (better than five golden rings!)
  • A GOOSE (Get Out Of School Early) pass
  • Smells of Summer (because swans swim…and you swim in the summer)
  • Hot Chocolate Cart
  • A Candy Cane (danced so much needed a cane to get home)
  • Lord’s a Leaping, It’s Lunch!
  • a Kazoo
  • Gift Card Giveaway (one per hour)

Talk about some serious time and creativity here, right? Way to go, Michelle!

staff countdown examples

Principal Andrea Kaplan in Mukwonago, Wisconsin did a countdown last year to “build staff morale, boomerang kindness and to help spread a little joy during the last 12 days prior to Christmas break”. Her staff loved it, so she’s doing it again this year.  She includes these fun things on her countdown:

  • Jeans until January
  • Popcorn bar
  • Coffee or hot chocolate
  • Fresh fruit
  • “Yes You Can!” (her school’s mantra) swag
  • A sweet treat
  • Christmas cake
  • Chex Mix bar
  • Beverage cart
  • Staff photo
  • Cheese and sausage platter
  • Gift card raffle

Andrea says, “It was something to look forward to each day. Also, it brought smiles to our students face as I pushed around a beverage cart delivering drinks to staff members in their classrooms. I do my best as a Leader to value and appreciate my staff as much as possible throughout the school year. This activity is just one of many ways I show how much I care about them. In the end…we are a team and it takes a village to help students be successful. I want them to know I see them working hard and every chance I get to show my appreciation is worth it!”

Thank you to Andrea and Michelle and the many other administrators in our group who shared their experiences with us!

And we want all the awesome administrators and school leaders out there to be able to do something similar for their staff. However, we know that time is hard to find at this time of the year. 

That’s why we made this super easy-to-personalize “Countdown to Holiday Break” calendar for you.

winter break countdown for your staff

You can choose whatever ideas make sense for you and for your staff and then add them to your calendar. Our printable Countdown to Winter Break Calendar is editable, so you can make it your own. 

Here are just a few of our 12 Days Before Winter Break Ideas. 

  • Wear jeans and tennis shoes today!
  • Eat lunch in the Staff Room but make sure there’s no talking about school!
  • Start your day off right with doughnuts and bagels!
  • Candy canes for everyone!
  • Wear a cozy flannel today.
  • Hot chocolate bar in the Staff Lounge
  • Trade your shoes for slippers
  • Gift card raffle every hour
  • Lunchtime pie and cake raffle
  • Wear your favorite team jersey
  • Ice-cream bar for dessert
  • Nacho bar for lunch
  • Off-duty day! Your duty will be covered.
  • Class coverage — you will get a surprise 30-minute break today!
  • Hand-written thank you note to you
  • Have a “chappy” new year and enjoy this chapstick
  • Ugly holiday sweater day
  • Crazy holiday sock day
  • Good-morning coffee bar
  • Book and magazine swap. Bring some reads to share and grab something new.
  • Cozy socks for you
  • Island dreamin’ — wear your favorite tropical attire.
  • Cookie exchange
  • GOOSE (Get Out Of School Early pass)
  • Holiday CD’s full of fun and festive songs
  • Double lunch period today (thanks to help from PTA!)
  • Beverage cart
  • Holiday cake for staff

Grab the printable Countdown to Holiday Break Calendar here

Do tell us what other ideas you’d add to this list—we’d love to know! Share your ideas in the Principal Life Facebook Group

Happy holidays! 


Posted by amy mascott

Amy Mascott is Senior Digital Editor and Creative Manager for WeAreTeachers.

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