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.

After 695 nominations, it came down to the 16 finalists last night at the 18th annual LEF Awards presentation at the Heymann Performing Arts Center here in Lafayette.

All of the finalists received the Hollywood red carpet treatment. As well they should and most definitely deserve.

On behalf of everyone here at 97.3 The Dawg, we'd like to congratulate all of our fine educators and salute the finalists and winners from last night's amazing evening.

Elementary School Category
Darmecia W. Crane - Milton Elementary/ Middle School - 5th grade (WINNER)
Ashley Jolet - Katherine Drexel Elementary School - Special Education
Mayme Suire - Family Life Christian Academy - 4th grade
Charlie West - Katherine Drexel Elementary School - 4th grade

Middle School Category
Vincent Robert Hicks - David Thibodaux STEM Academy - 6th-8th grade P.E./Basketball Coach (WINNER)
Michael Karnath - Youngsville Middle School - 6th-8th grade Modular Tech (Wood shop)
Monique Walker - L.J. Alleman Middle School - 7th grade English
Trudie Wolking - Cathedral Carmel School - Special Education

High School Category
Sandra Laborde Broussard - Comeaux High School - 9th-11th Grade Speech & Debate (WINNER)
Mel Didier- Comeaux High School - 11th-12th Grade Western Civilizations History
Shauna LeBlanc - Lafayette High School - 10th-11th grade Biology and Chemistry
Charles Young - Comeaux High School - 9th-12th grade NJROTC

Inspirational Category
Ashley Cagle - J. Wallace James Elementary School - Kindergarten
Lian Cheramie - Lafayette High School - 9th-12th grade Talented Theater (WINNER)
Mary Pierce - Myrtle Place Elementary School - Special Education
Sandra Thompson - Episcopal School of Acadiana - Kindergarten

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