01:13 PM EDT 05/23/2013
Originally posted 05/16/2013 04:20PM
It's been seven months since PEOPLE named its first class of Teachers of the Year. But for the winners, says Chicago's Rauner College Prep band director Robert Vega, the effects, are "still continuing. "
Along with a memorable phone call from Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel – "He asked me how many students I taught. I told him 350 and he chuckled," says Vega – he's had virtually non-stop calls, as well as requests from local TV and newspapers to talk about getting all those kids to play instruments. It's given him a welcomed platform: "Every single interview I give I'm pushing for why we need music in schools."
Think you could be among the next class? Apply by June 7 for the 2013 Teacher of the Year search by downloading an application.
Like Vega, the other four Teachers of the Year each received $1,000 and their schools were awarded $4,000. At Vega's urging, Rauner used its winnings to fund a teacher, props and materials for an after-school theater program. PEOPLE caught up with him and the others to find out how they are putting their wins to work for the kids to whom they are so devoted.
Originally posted 10/11/2012 11:15AM
Grammy-award winner John Legend honored the five winners of PEOPLE's 2012 Teacher of the Year awards at a luncheon at the Time Life building in New York on Wednesday.
The five winners are Libby Curran, a special education teacher in Newport, N.H., Robert Vega, a music teacher at Rauner College Prep in Chicago, Jennifer Bohn, who teaches leadership at Evans High School in Orlando, Fla., Brian Copes, a pre-engineering teacher at Calera High School in Calera, Ala., and Arwen Imai Matthews, a science teacher at KIPP 3D Academy in Houston, were celebrated for their innovation in and out of the classroom.
The winners and their guests dined on watercress, candied walnut and goat cheese salad, herb roasted chicken with whipped potatoes, caramelized onions and sautéed Swiss chard and vanilla apple crisp with Chantilly créme.
"I am so inspired by the work of the teachers we honored. Having great teachers is the single most important factor in giving our kids a great education, and it's crucial that we recognize and reward the excellent work teachers do and give them the tools they need to succeed," Legend, who helped select the winners, told PEOPLE.
– Sharon Cotliar
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