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Rebecca Mieliwocki lauded as Teacher of the Year

Burbank middle school veteran credits her parents, mentors as she accepts the honor at White House.

April 24, 2012|By Megan O'Neil and Jason Wells, Times Community News
  • President Barack Obama presents the 2012 National Teacher of the Year award to Rebecca Mieliwocki, who teaches at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, Calif., Tuesday during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House in Washington.
President Barack Obama presents the 2012 National Teacher… (AP Photo / Charles…)

Flanked by her family and colleagues, President Obama today called Burbank Unified teacher Rebecca Mieliwocki — the 2012 national Teacher of the Year — “the definition of ‘above and beyond.'”

Mieliwocki, a Glendale resident who teaches English at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, was given the national prize Monday by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Known for an unconventional teaching style that emphasizes critical thinking, Mieliwocki beat out more than 50 other nominees. She also maintains a Facebook page for her class and keeps in regular contact with the students' parents.

Mieliwocki was cheered loudly by the audience at the event. Obama pointed out a particularly loud cheering section during his remarks.

“This is Rebecca's crew right here, who are very proud. Auntie, cousins?” Obama asked the group.

“My boss,” Mieliwocki interjected, to laughs.

“Oh, boss. Even more important,” he said.

Obama spoke about how Mieliwocki was raised by two public-school teachers but took a somewhat roundabout way into the profession.

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She first aspired to be a lawyer, then worked in publishing, then floral design and event planning.

“But ultimately, she found herself drawn back to the classroom,” he said. “And her students are so lucky that she did.”

The profession suits her personality as a self-proclaimed “12-year-old goofball dying to get out,” Obama said, adding, “And I have to say, she was a little goofy when I met her.”

He noted that Mieliwocki sets high expectations for her students and herself, developing creative lessons, hosting family nights, sending weekly parent memos and maintaining a Facebook page for her class.

Mieliwocki then spoke from the lectern, calling the winners of state teacher of the year awards gathered behind her as the most “dedicated, intelligent, compassionate, hardworking group of professionals you will never meet.”

“I am not the best teacher in America — there isn't one,” she said. “All across this nation there are millions of teachers who do the work that I do and many do it better.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) also released a statement today calling Mieliwocki a “shining example for our community and our children.”

For her part, Mieliwocki has deferred much of the praise to her mentors and parents, themselves public school teachers.

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