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'Wonderful spirit': Burbank educator honored as National Teacher of the Year

A Burbank teacher received her profession's highest honor when she was named 2012 National Teacher of the Year, beating out more than 3 million educators in the process.

Rebecca Mieliwocki, a seventh-grade English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School, was honored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, which has been awarding teachers since 1952. President Barack Obama congratulated Mieliwocki Tuesday at a White House ceremony.

"She just has a wonderful spirit," President Obama said.

Mieliwocki, who has spent the last 16 years of her career teaching in Burbank, said it's important for teachers to play an integral role in a student's lifelong development, according to the Burbank Unified School District.

"There isn't one (teacher of the year)," Mieliwocki said Tuesday at the White House. "All across this nation there are millions of teachers who do what I do. I have a passion for my work. I have a bottomless well of belief in my students and their potential.

Mieliwocki was first chosen as Los Angeles County's Teacher of the Year in October, before winning the same honor at the state level, along with five other educators.

She was chosen as the finalist for the national award in January by a 15-person panel of teachers from various education organizations. Joining Mieliwocki on her trip is Burbank Unified Superintendent Stan Carrizosa, who said he is ecstatic for the middle school teacher.

"We are thrilled to learn that Rebecca has been chosen as the best of the best," Carrizosa said. "She exemplifies dedication and passion to the craft of teaching, a tireless work ethic, and an obsession to improve kids’ lives."

Tom Torlakson, California's superintendent of public instruction, said Mieliwocki will represent the state well.

"Rebecca Mieliwocki is an inspiration to her students, to me, and to every California teacher," he said. "She brings enormous energy, enthusiasm, and optimism to teaching."

Mieliwocki, a Glendale resident, received her bachelor's degree in speech communication from California Polytechnic State University.

The daughter of two educators, Mieliwocki was raised in Napa and has spent the last 10 years at her position in Burbank, according to the district.

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