Between the school bells, Nathan Gibbs-Bowling teaches social studies in Tacoma, Washington.
When he's not in class, the 2016 Washington Teacher of the Year models civic engagement for students. He mentors young men of color through the College Success Foundation Achievers Scholars Program and distributes in-person care packages to former students who are now in college.
Jahana Hayes cites personal experiences as her reason for becoming a teacher.
She teaches history in Waterbury, CT and is the first in her family to attend college. Today, the 2016 Connecticut Teacher of the Year promotes cultural awareness and develops service learning curriculum for her school and community.
Daniel Jocz teaches social studies in Los Angeles, and is the 2016 California Teacher of the Year. He has created a curriculum that challenges students to not narrowly define literacy as just reading and writing, but also to include global, social media, popular culture, and digital literacy.
Shawn Sheehan is a specialized education Algebra teacher in Norman, OK, whose interest in teaching developed from working with young adults with disabilities as a job coach. The 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year says he became a teacher because he "wanted children to know that their disabilities and challenges should not immediately disqualify them from a more productive, successful career and life."
These four teachers are the finalists for 2016 National Teacher of the Year, and one of them will be named the 2016 National Teacher of the Year this spring.
Thanks to my job, I am surrounded by these phenomenal educators.
The Council of Chief State School Officers runs the National Teacher of the Year program. Getting to know these teachers is by far one of the best parts of my post. At least twice a year I meet all of the state teachers of the year -- the educators chosen as top in their profession in each state.
But I get to meet other incredible teachers, too. I meet them in all corners of the country. And the teachers I meet on the road leave as profound an impression.
Kathy Tapia works in the Two Eagle River School in Pablo, Montana, and despite enormous financial challenges facing the school, she finds ways with few resources but a lot of love to teach culture to her students.
I could feel the pride she held showing the work of years of students -- the sewing, the beading, the cooking.
The team at New Hampshire's Spaulding High School is expanding the bounds of a traditional classroom. Steven Prescott and Lee Sheedy spent months working on a performance task in Geometry that challenged students to create a water tower for their town.
These scenes play out across the country in countless classrooms across the map. Every day there is a teacher working their magic in a classroom full of kids, using every ounce of energy, skill and patience he or she has to help students succeed.
Just look to your own kid's classroom. Or the teacher who went the distance for you.
Now share that story.
Feb. 14-22 is #LoveTeaching week. Teachers across the country will take to blogs, social media, and other avenues to show why they #LoveTeaching. The campaign, now in its second year, was created by state and national teachers of the year.
Share your story or a picture on social media, or send a note to a teacher thanking them for what they do.
It's an important effort to highlight why teaching is such a great profession.