California State University, Northridge alumna Rebecca Mieliwocki has been selected as the 2012 National Teacher of the Year, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious teaching honor.
Mieliwocki, a seventh-grade English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, was recognized by President Barack Obama last week in a ceremony at the White House. She was named one of California’s five 2012 Teachers of the Year earlier this year.
“We are proud to have a graduate of California State University, Northridge’s teachers program honored by the prestigious National Teacher of the Year award for 2012,” said Cal State Northridge Interim President Harry Hellenbrand. “The passion and commitment Ms. Mieliwocki brings to her work as an educator are values we strive to instill in all of the students in the program. Ms. Mieliwocki’s exceptional work and the award she has received are reminders of the crucial role teachers play in preparing youth for future success and well-being.”
Michael Spagna, dean of CSUN’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education, agreed.
“Rebecca Mieliwocki fully embodies the values of the Michael D. Eisner College of Education,” he said. “She is a teacher’s teacher, a caring professional who values collaborative partnerships and academic excellence. She clearly values diversity, creativity and reflective thinking and practice. In short, she embodies everything that makes an effective teacher, and we are very proud to call her an alumna of our college.”
As part of her duties as teacher of the year, Mieliwocki will embark on a yearlong speaking tour, sharing with educators and others her passion for the classroom. She accepted an invitation earlier this year to give the commencement address at the Michael D. Eisner College of Education’s graduation ceremony on May 24.
“Students learn best when they have the most enthusiastic, engaged teachers possible,” she said in a statement. “I firmly believe that teachers must be held accountable for their students’ success, from helping them meet personal or school-wide goals to achieving on district- and state-level assessments. Our students are our future, so we, their teachers, must do our best to inspire them and guide them to greatness.”
Mieliwocki, the daughter of two teachers, didn’t start out intending to be a teacher. She first studied to become a lawyer and then went into publishing. She finally conceded her passion for the classroom 13 years ago.
Mieliwocki, who earned a single-subject credential in English in secondary education from Cal State Northridge in 1996, is known for her “unconventional” teaching techniques. She inscribes playing cards with students’ names, with the luck of the draw determining who gets called on to read in class. A ding from a hotel service bell on her desk signals a correct answer.
The National Teacher of the Year program is a project of the Counsel of Chief State School Officers in partnership with the University of Phoenix and People to People Ambassador Programs and is sponsored by the ING Foundation and Target.
Mieliwocki is the seventh national teacher selected from California since the program began in 1952.
—Carmen Ramos Chandler