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
JoLynn Dean - 2nd Grade - J. Wallace James Elementary
Lynn McElroy - 2nd Grade - Woodvale Elementary
Jessica Mouton - Librarian - Evangeline Elementary
Lindsay Nardini - 3rd Grade - Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic

Middle School Category
Josie Abington - 7th Grade Math - Youngsville Middle
Annette Chapman - 7th Grade Science - Paul Breaux Middle
Michelle Lakhotia - 7th Grade Math - Judice Middle
Victoria Landry - 5th-8th Grade Choir - L.J. Alleman Middle

High School Category
Kirk Baudoin - 10th-11th Grade Health Sciences - Lafayette High
Matthew Canone - 11th Grade English - Comeaux High
Kevin Martin - Cosmetology - W.D. Smith Career Center

Inspirational Category
Rachel Allen Gaspard - Special Education - Paul Breaux Middle
Catherine Harper - 7th Grade English & Language Arts - Judice Middle
Lisette Henderson - Spanish & REAL Program - Comeaux High
Amy Ruddock - 3rd Grade - Lafayette Christian Academy

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.

The 16th Annual LEF Teacher Awards will be held on January 23, 2014 at 7:30 pm at the Heymann Performing Arts Center. This year's awards ceremony will feature entertainment from the Lafayette High School Choir under the direction of the 2013 LEF Teacher Awards High School Top Finalist, Holly Grefe!

To purchase tickets, click here or call the Heymann Performing Arts Center at 337-291-5555.