President Barack Obama honored Rebecca Mieliwocki of California as the 2012 National Teacher of the Year, saying government has an obligation to support the best educators to preserve “the basic promise of America.”
“Rebecca is the definition of above and beyond,” Obama said at a White House ceremony honoring Mieliwocki, a seventh-grade English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, which has about 1,100 students. “She knows her students are depending on her.”
Obama has said increasing spending on education and raising graduation rates are critical to the nation’s success as it faces growing global competition in the 21st century. “No issue will have a bigger impact” on the country’s future than bolstering the education system, he said.
Mieliwocki, 46, said the best teachers share qualities, including passion for their work and their students and a belief that education can make a difference in the lives of their students.
“I am not the best teacher in America, there isn’t one,” she said in remarks as she accepted the award. “I have an unshakable understanding that children can do anything they set their minds to.”
Obama was joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools System, and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and an educator for more than 30 years who currently teaches at a community college in Virginia.
The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from state winners by a national committee representing major U.S. education groups and is organized by the top education officers in each state.