Rebecca Mieliwocki teaches English to 7th graders in Burbank. This year she received the highest honor a teacher can be awarded when she beat out over 3 million educators for the honor of being named the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. At a televised ceremony at the White House’s Rose Garden on Tuesday, President Barack Obama congratulated her.
She has spent 16 years teaching in Burbank and began this award path in October by being named Los Angeles County’s Teacher of the year, then joining five other educators to win the award for California’s Teacher of the Year. After going through a challenging series of interviews, a panel of fifteen educators from a variety of organizations chose her as the national finalist in January. She got the phone call on a Friday afternoon in March while she was in her classroom grading papers.
Mieliwocki feels it is important for teachers to contribute to the lifelong development of their students. Tom Torlakson, the superintendent of public instruction for the state of California said that she “is an inspiration to her students, tome, and to every California teacher.”
The youngest daughter of two educators, Mieliwocki graduated from California Polytechnic State University and first took a job as a publisher’s liaison. Following her husband’s advice after finding that job unrewarding, she moved into education. She feels that even though she came to the realization a little later than she might have, it is truly her calling in life.
She uses some teaching methods that may be considered unconventional but that are designed to keep the attention of her students. Her creative strategies are all based upon needing to help the kids build skills. She believes in being accountable for doing her job. After finishing this school year in Burbank, Mieliwocki will begin a speaking tour where she will talk to educators about challenges that face those in the teaching profession.