How GiveThx Helped Students and Teachers Stay Healthy and Connected This Year

June 21, 2021

Summer break has finally arrived! As teachers pack up their virtual and physical classrooms and students embark on a long-awaited break, we’re taking a moment at GiveThx to reflect.

This year, schools radically shifted to new teaching and learning models. So did GiveThx. We asked ourselves: how do we adapt to meet the urgency of the moment? Read below to learn more about what we did, what we learned, and how we made an impact.


Three years ago, we started GiveThx amidst a rising crisis in students' mental health and high rates of trauma experienced disproportionately by low-income students and students of color. COVID-19 only exacerbated these trends. From the very start of the pandemic, we saw schools struggling to address students’ declining sense of connection and wellbeing. So we launched a series of changes:

  • First, we pivoted our business model for the year, providing GiveThx for free to all participating schools and districts.
  • Second, we refined our curriculum and training to support new ways of learning—be it virtual, hybrid, or socially distanced, in-person learning. 
  • Third, we launched a monthly webinar series for educators focused on fostering inclusive communities, healthy peer relationships, and staff wellbeing.


You know the safety video you watch before you fly a plane? The one that says in case of an emergency, put on your oxygen mask before helping others... because you can’t help others well without making sure you’re okay first. Well, the same goes for teachers. That became even clearer this year.

Students experienced profound rates of disconnection and isolation amidst the pandemic. But so did teachers. They struggled to adjust to new ways of teaching— to not only cope with their own loss and trauma, but also the secondary trauma of their students. And it wasn’t just teachers. It was the whole learning community: the office manager supplying laptops, the nurse doing contract tracing, and the principal trying to help the school adjust.

Staff needed concrete, safe, and effective ways to build and maintain healthy relationships from a distance. When they used the GiveThx program not just with their students, but amongst themselves, they felt better. Their relationships with students improved, improving students’ performance in turn. Despite the distance, staff’s sense of connection with their students and colleagues increased.


Students and staff realized that their peers were one of their most untapped resources to be resilient. GiveThx helped them access that power.

  • “I opened GiveThx and discovered appreciations from students I wasn't expecting, making me cry a little because they were exactly what I needed,” - Mrs. Decker, high school counselor.
  • I am really enjoying this project because I get to feel more connected with other students in my grade and it gives me a better opportunity to give gratitude to others during social distancing," - Maya, 11th grader.
  • “I felt really happy that someone finally paid attention to something I was doing" - Sharana, 9th grader (watch the full video here).


We’re taking our learnings with us to the next school year. We know what we’re up against: dual learning and mental health crises. We will support schools to address these challenges with a new curriculum, expanded professional development modules, and powerful administrator software tools. We will ground our work in equity, continuing to focus on high-potential, under- resourced communities. We will continue to design with and for students with traditionally marginalized voices, centering their experiences and needs in our work. Most important: will create inclusive learning communities where all staff and students feel appreciated, connected, and confident in who they are and what they can achieve.


Making our services free this year meant we could help more students and teachers in a time of crisis. But it also meant that if we want to continue this work—and double our impact—we need help building awareness and growing support.

That’s where you come in! Here are three ways you can help:

  • Follow GiveThx on social media here, here, and here: Want something small to feel good about every day? Follow us on social media. We share stories about students and teachers doing wonderful things and ideas about ways to improve education and mental health.
  • Share about GiveThx with your friends and community: Everybody knows how good it feels to be thanked. Gratitude lifts our spirits and restores our faith in humanity. Share about GiveThx with those in your community so they too can connect, smile, and heal.
  • Donate to GiveThx: help GiveThx reach more schools and improve wellbeing for students and teachers around the country. Join us to make an impact and be a part of this positive change.