Teacher appreciation, like the different love languages, has unique ways of being expressed. A shelf of gifted coffee mugs in excess. A purple crayon because a student discovered it’s their favorite color. A succulent gifted 10 years ago that endures. Signatures, notes, and HAGS inscribed in a yearbook. Handwritten notes overflowing from an old shoebox. The chance to visit cherished memories on the hard days. A bygone student’s reflection of a lasting impact and job well done. These are just a few ways teachers may feel appreciated, but educators don’t tend to get enough thanks for all they do for their schools and their students.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is doing their part in appreciating educators by recognizing deserving individuals throughout the year through The Caring Foundation. According to the BCBS website, The Caring Foundation was established in 1990 and “is focused on improving the health and well-being of Alabamians by investing in charitable organizations across the state.” Last year, three incredible educators were recognized as Be Healthy Educators for their various contributions to their schools and communities.

Assistant Principal April Justice is using her influence in her administrative role at Leeds Elementary School to focus on renewing healthy relationships among faculty and peers. Justice began teaching fifth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) before going on to be a PE coach and reading interventionist. Then, in August of 2022, Justice was hired as assistant principal, and told The Trussville Tribune, “We’re all working for the same thing in making kids successful.” Since then, she has been doing just that—making kids successful.

Justice, along with Leeds Elementary principal Rachel Haley, have prioritized relationship-building in the aftermath of COVID. Recognizing the challenges students have faced in interacting with each other and adults during the pandemic, the administration at Leeds Elementary focused on nurturing strong relationships to provide a supportive environment where students can thrive emotionally and academically. Justice’s ability to foster healthy relationships and empower everyone around her has a ripple effect of positive relationships within the school and within the community.

Jorden Dickerson, an Exceptional Education specialist at Fultondale High School, is another well-deserved recipient of the Be Healthy Educator of the Month. This honor is a testament to her commitment to the well-being of her students. Ms. Dickerson’s dedication shines through as she prioritizes the health and happiness of those under her care, going above and beyond to ensure their holistic development. The Caring Foundation, acknowledging her exceptional contributions, expressed, “Ms. Dickerson is a dedicated educator who wants the best for her students. Their health and happiness are her top priority.” Beyond traditional teaching, Ms. Dickerson’s innovative approach to education reflects her tireless efforts to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities awaiting them beyond the walls of Fultondale High School.

When asked about this award, Dickerson told Daily Mountain Eagle, a Walker County newspaper, “I am extremely honored to have received this recognition. I feel like there are many educators who are just as deserving, if not more, to be recognized. I am thankful to have been nominated and chosen.” Dickerson, like many educators, embodies humility and a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of her students. Her acknowledgment of the collective efforts of educators reflects the collaborative spirit within the teaching community.

Another Be Healthy Educator recipient is Bridgett Cox, a fourth-grade teacher at Helena Intermediate School. Cox’s dedication to the well-being and growth of her students has earned her this well-deserved recognition. The Caring Foundation commends Cox for her tireless efforts to create a positive and healthy learning environment, where students not only excel academically but also develop essential life skills. As a fourth-grade teacher, Cox plays a crucial role in shaping the educational journey of her students, and her commitment reflects a holistic approach to their overall development.

The unwavering commitment of three educators—and many more—lays the foundation for a brighter future. Showing appreciation and gratitude for teachers like these should not be confined to a specific week or month but ingrained in the daily fabric of our educational institutions. Fostering a culture of gratitude benefits not only teachers but also students, parents, and the community at large. When teachers feel valued, their enthusiasm and dedication translate into an enriched learning experience for students.

Reflecting back on our own schooling, sending our own children to school, or just engaging with the people around us, it is clear the influence and impact educators have on our lives. They help us lay a foundation of knowledge and skills that we will build our lives upon. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and The Caring Foundation are also helping lay that foundation through their mission to “give back to the community by supporting initiatives to improve the health, wellness, and education of Alabamians.”

Find the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama Be Healthy School Grant application here.