Chatting with a friend who left the Tucson region a couple of years ago to teach in the Las Vegas area's Clark County School District, we discovered a significant difference (besides compensation): community respect.

An attitude of appreciation for teachers permeates Las Vegas. When people in the grocery checkout line discover our friend is a teacher, it is not uncommon for her to receive a warm smile and a "thank you."

And there are the discounts. For presenting a teaching identification, local businesses lower prices and attractions reduce entrance fees. A few dollars saved here and there go a long way toward giving teachers a morale and financial boost.

Tucson Values Teachers hopes to propagate a similar attitude of community respect here. The group announced Tuesday its Summer Breaks for Teachers, a package of summer discounts for more than 10,000 K-12 public, private and charter school teachers working in Pima County.

"During a time when teachers can easily feel devalued because of the siege on public education, I am supporting the Tucson Values Teachers Program because it can create a climate of much-needed respect and appreciation for our dedicated professional teachers, who make critical and positive differences for our students every day," Vicki Balentine, superintendent of Amphitheater Public Schools, told us.

These are not fluffy, feel-good discounts. These offer real breaks and significant savings — like a free auto-maintenance package that includes an oil and air-filter change.

A resort and restaurants are giving teachers, who may not be able to take a vacation this year, a opportunity to relax without breaking the bank.

Among the growing list of businesses offering discounts:

• Arizona Self Storage

• ARTO Sales and Rentals

• Jim Click Automotive

• Cup Café

• El Charro Café

• Live the Solution

• Financial Solutions for Life Workshops

• Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

• Magpies Gourmet Pizza

• Maynard's Market and Kitchen

• Metro Restaurants

• Treasures 4 Teachers

• YMCA of Southern Arizona

The overall goal of Tucson Values Teachers, a partnership of business, community and education-focused groups, is to help recruit, retain and reward K-12 teachers in Pima County.

This discount program should be a financial boost during the lean summer months and reinforce the notion that businesses in our community appreciate and respect teachers.

Tucson Values Teachers offers concrete programs to advance teachers. Among its efforts, Tucson Values Teachers secured 20 internships for teachers in local businesses. The intent is for the teachers to return to their classes with an understanding of some of the skills that future workers will need.

Businesses said thanks to K-12 teachers in our region by offering discounts. We can all express our appreciation to teachers with a smile and a thank you at the grocery store and elsewhere in our community.