October 28, 2013 12:00 PM

For a child there is no more pressing question at the start of the school year than “Which teacher did you get?”. An outstanding teacher can mean the difference between inspiration and boredom, success and failure. Our second annual Teacher of the Year contest proves that America has many life-changing teachers and even more enthusiastic young fans. As one middle school student wrote of one of the winners you will meet on page 79, she sees “the diamond underneath.”

To find the gems from the many excellent entries, PEOPLE’s editors looked for educators who brought rigor, creativity and compassion to their classrooms, who improved not only test scores but lives. We are grateful for the counsel of our distinguished board of advisers: 2012 Teacher of the Year winner Jennifer Bohn, Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent John E. Deasy, National Education Association vice president Lily Eskelsen García, Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp, National PTA president Otha Thornton and musician and philanthropist John Legend.

In addition thousands of you voted this year on for our Readers Choice winner, drama teacher Art Almquist of Tucson. He and all the honorees received a trip to New York and a $5,000 prize to be shared with their schools, courtesy of our partner Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats. This year’s class includes a range of talented educators, from a grade school veteran who stood strong in a storm to our first team win: three teachers who founded a school to reflect their students’ unique gifts.

Are you an amazing teacher? Know one? Look for the launch of the 2014 contest early next year at


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