Teaching is not for the faint of heart.

Most of us know this by now, thankfully, as understanding of the crucial role played by teachers has spread over recent decades. We have absorbed the idea that instructing leaders of tomorrow is challenging, demanding work. We have grasped it. Which is great for us, but leaves educators more or less where they already were.

The next step is showing teachers — especially new teachers — that we understand and value at that work. That’s why the Kansas Horizon Award program is so important.

A regional competition administered by the state Department of Education, the program “identifies and recognizes representatives of excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state,” the department notes. “The mission of the program is to recognize exemplary first-year teachers who perform in a way that distinguishes them as outstanding.”

Three Topeka educators received the honor, including Washburn Rural High School teacher Kaylee Barber. She told The Capital-Journal: “My hope is that I can expand my students’ horizons like I have my own. I’ve had recognition from my administration. This is more of a public recognition of what teachers sacrifice and what we do.”

Idealism runs strong in teaching and among teachers. Working with young people offers a change to make truly life-changing improvements in the lives of others. Encouragement like the Horizon Award can make all the difference at the beginning of a career.

Overall, 32 teachers from across the state were honored, showing that teaching excellence isn’t confined to one region or one size of school. Quality teachers and enduring inspiration are everywhere.

The 32 included Circle Towanda Elementary fifth-grade teacher Kali Stearns, who thanked her peers for their part in her win: “I could not have survived my first year of teaching, let alone be recognized for this award, without the support I’ve received,” she said, according to the Butler County Times-Gazette. “It is very special to work in a place where everyone welcomes you with such open arms.”

The full list of winners can be found at https://www.ksde.org/Home/Quick-Links/News-Room/2020-kansas-horizon-award-program-recognizes-32-first-year-educators-1. This award is just the beginning for these talented folks, of course. It’s an encouragement. A way for all of us to tell them that the work is worthwhile, and to keep going for the good of our children and state.

Or as Newton High School teacher Mollie Mills-Weis put it to the Newton Kansan: “It’s really validating and affirming of all the hard work and time. The first year of teaching is really stressful. To get this award really solidifies that making the choice to become a teacher was the right thing.”