It is tricky work translating the Slovak "oceniť" into English. The basic idea is "to put a value on something", or "to value something" in short. "The house was
valued at four million crowns" is straightforward, the normal work of an official valuer. But "Prezident ocenil prácu ľudí ..." doesn't mean that he assessed the financial value of their work. And
it's no good translating it as "The President valued their work", because in practice that's a formal way of saying "he liked their work very much indeed".
The same idea is in "appreciate" and "esteem" - it's only in the person's mind. The point is that the President invited some people to lunch and gave them (awarded
them) some things, which is a physical act. "Reward" is a possibility, but it sounds rather like the employees have found some lost property and returned it to the President. In the end I chose
"acknowledge", because it combines the ideas of "ceniť" and "odmeniť".