David Yellen
Sharon Cotliar
March 08, 2013 01:00 PM

PEOPLE magazine is looking for teachers who are changing the lives of their students, improving their communities, and paving the way for a new generation of leaders.

Does this sound like you? If so, we invite you to enter our second annual PEOPLE Teacher of the Year award. Six pre-K through 12th grade educators will be awarded a $5,000 prize, to be shared with their schools, with support from our sponsor Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal.

Starting today, teachers can download the application here. Entries will be accepted until June 7, 2013, and the winners will be determined by PEOPLE’s editors and an independent panel that includes: John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association, Wendy Kopp, Founder-CEO of Teach for America and Teach for All, Otha Thornton, president-elect of the National Parent Teacher Association, Jennifer Bohn, a leadership specialist at Maynard Evans High in Orlando and a 2012 Teacher of the Year winner, and musician John Legend, founder of the Show Me Campaign.

New this year: A Reader’s Choice winner, who will be determined in part by voting on People.com beginning August 15 – stay tuned to see those amazing candidates and pick your favorite.

Download the Teacher of the Year application

To kick off the contest, this week PEOPLE highlights the accomplishments of special education teacher and wrestling coach Ben Rings, who opened up the wrestling team to students with special needs at Pine-Richland High School in suburban Pittsburgh and has helped forge bonds between his students and their peers in mainstream classes. “I want to help bridge the gap between them,” says Rings, who was inspired by his step-father, also a special ed teacher. “The best part,” he says of his job, “is [seeing] the friendships that blossom.”

For a look back at last year’s winners, check out the video below.

For more on this week’s amazing teacher, Ben Rings, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE magazine, on newsstands Friday

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