We all know that teachers are truly some of the most important people in our children's lives. And it's a profession that can be seemingly thankless at times.

That's why when the Lafayette Education Foundation (LEF) gives out their awards each year, it truly warms my heart.

The finalists have been announced in the four categories. And the nominees are:

Elementary School Category
Shirley Baniewicz - J. Wallace James Elementary
Trudie Lasseigne - Cathedral-Carmel School
Lynn McElroy - Woodvale Elementary
Terry Richard - Charles Burke Elementary

Middle School Category
Lindy Blakewood - Ascension Lower School
Susan Deshotels - Youngsville Middle
Michelle Lakhotia - Judice Middle
Jane Vidrine - L.J. Alleman Middle

High School Category
Shawnessy Bloom - Comeaux High
Linda Doherty - Teurlings Catholic High
Holly Grefe-Andrus - Lafayette High
Cecile Mitchell - Career Center

Inspirational Category
Jeanne Aguillard - Early College Academy
Rachel Gaspard - Paul Breaux Middle
Kimberly Kidder - J. Wallace james Elementary
Melinda Perrodin - Broussrd Middle

The nominees are picked from outstanding K-12 educators in Lafayette Parish public, private and parochial schools. Educators are nominated by the students, parents, fellow educators and members of the Lafayette community.

This year's award will take place January 17, 2013.