Rebecca Mieliwocki, the 2012 National Teacher of the Year and NEA member, was honored Tuesday by President Obama at a White House ceremony. Mieliwocki, an English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, Calif., was awarded the prestigious title by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) on Monday. CCSSO cited her bold and unconventional teaching practices during her 14-year teaching career. Mieliwocki will serve for one year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for public education.
“Rebecca is the definition of ‘above and beyond,’” President Obama said today. “And so are many educators across the country. Every day, when teachers like you put in long hours, or dig into your own pockets to pay for school supplies, or tweak lessons so they’re even better than they were last year, you’re not just serving your schools or your students, you’re also serving your country. And you’re helping to preserve the basic promise of America, that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is, you can succeed. You can make it if you try, if you put in the effort.”
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the National Teacher of the Year Program, which honors educators representing the teaching profession as their State Teacher of the Year. This prestigious program allows teachers from across the country to collaborate with policy makers at every level and advocate on behalf of the teaching profession. In addition to Mieliwocki, all State Teachers of the Year were honored today at the White House.
As President Obama noted today, teaching is in Mieliwocki’s DNA. She is the daughter of two veteran public school educators. She didn’t always see herself in the classroom, however.
Mieliwocki began her career in the publishing industry, acting as a project coordinator for a textbook production company. She did enjoy her job, but found that she felt something missing. Mieliwocki realized that she should be doing something she truly loved and find the right career path.
“I took some time to make a list of things I needed and wanted in my ‘perfect’ job: creativity, decision making control, fun, flexibility, stability, the potential to work with young people. It dawned on me that teaching was the obvious place.”
“Every student deserves a caring, committed and qualified teacher in their classroom, and even as we pause to acknowledge Rebecca, let’s not lose sight at what drives her: a fundamental commitment to her student’s success,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The key to raising achievement for all students is to ensure that teachers like Rebecca and all the Teacher of the Year finalists are empowered to lead and transform the teaching profession.”
Mieliwocki firmly believes that teachers must be held accountable for the success of their students, from helping them meet personal or school-wide learning goals to achieving on district and state level assessments.
As she travels across the country in the upcoming year, Mieliwocki will deliver a message she believes all educators need to hear.
“Be passionate, stay curious, set high expectations,” she said on Tuesday. “You are a hero to someone even if you don’t know it.”