A New View on Summer Vacation

07/20/2012 04:18 pm ET | Updated Sep 19, 2012

When I was a kid, summer vacation meant one thing to me: freedom. Freedom from tests, freedom from homework, freedom to sleep late and play outside.

As an adult, I have a new perspective on summer vacation.

Now that our kids are home during the day, we, as parents, are reminded of the tremendous energy and wisdom necessary to educate, entertain and grow our children -- a labor of love that teachers take on every day for 15, 20 or even 30 students.

Exhausted just thinking about it? Then take a moment between the pool parties and BBQs and join me in saying THANK YOU to all of the extraordinary teachers who work every day to educate and better our youth.

Here are few of the wonderful stories we have received about inspiring teachers across the nation to whom we want to give a special thank you:

Dinah Garrett, Mount Olive Elementary School, Atlanta, GA

"Mrs. Garrett has been a teacher at my school for several years. Each year, I have watched her silently move to help each of her children get the most of their kindergarten experience. She works with parents, students, and the community in a manner that bridges the relationship between home and school. She gives of herself tirelessly. Each year, when the school year comes to a close, I watch in amazement the level of satisfaction that her children and parents all share. After 1-2 weeks away from work, she faithfully returns to meet with me and check out videos or books that we both feel will help her grow professionally and become a better teacher. Over the next few weeks of the summer, she is in and out of the building, getting her classroom ready to receive a new batch of kids. When the other teachers return, Mrs. Garrett can be found floating around the building assisting new teachers or teachers who are new to the school. She has continued to prove herself as a faithful and loyal member of the team and has truly embraced the philosophy of giving her very best for all of her students, community members, and colleagues." - Dr. Darryl Felker

Awilda Santana, Waterbridge Elementary School, Orlando, FL

"Awilda Santana is an exemplary educator. She is enthusiastic, hardworking, creative, cooperative and caring. She models respect and admiration for the efforts of her students, while challenging them to grow further than they themselves thought possible. All of her students are second language learners and some of them came to her with no English skills. Last year, Ms. Santana had the highest learning gains in her grade level and her scores ranked above all the fourth grade classes. This is a testament to Ms. Santana's effectiveness in ensuring student success, regardless of the needs or challenges her students bring to the classroom. Ms. Santana not only inspires those around her; she is a leader in bringing hope and emotional support to others. She meets weekly with her peers to share words of inspiration. Ms. Santana is one of those rare individuals who instinctively knows what those around her need and extends herself to them. She maintains a very close relationship with her colleagues and works collaboratively with them to support learning. Ms. Santana is truly an outstanding model teacher and we are proud to have her as a teacher leader in our school." - Cyndy Hetrick

Mariela Medina-Cedillo, Bullock Elementary School, Garland, TX

"Ms. Medina came to our campus from Monterrey, Mexico, to teach fifth grade science in October 2011. She arrived in a country where she had no family, friends, or colleagues. She has demonstrated what you could call "true grit" to have been able to meet the challenges she did this year in teaching a very difficult curriculum. She never gave up, and despite the fact that her students had been performing rather low on their curriculum assessments before she came on board, Ms. Medina was able to inspire in them the love of science. The students have done well and their curriculum assessment scores skyrocketed throughout the fall and spring. We are very blessed to have such a dedicated teacher -- a teacher who has the passion to teach and excel in all she does. The students are very lucky to have her!" - Diane Hinojosa

Who is the special teacher that made a difference in your life -- or your child's? I invite you to share a thank-you to your favorite teacher in the comments below.