LOS ANGELES (AP) — A seventh-grade English teacher in suburban Los Angeles known for inspiring students with creative lessons was named 2012 National Teacher of the Year on Monday.
Rebecca Mieliwocki's recognition came as no surprise to Brian O'Rourke, principal of Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, the 1,100-student school where Mieliwocki teaches.
"Parents are constantly requesting her," said O'Rourke. "She's one of the best. She lives as a teacher."
Mieliwocki (pronounced Mil-WAU-kee) has taught for 16 years in the Burbank Unified School District. She was in Washington, D.C., on Monday and could not be immediately reached for comment.
She'll be honored by President Barack Obama in a ceremony Tuesday at the White House.
Mieliwocki is known for inspiring and motivating students, often using the Socratic method of questioning to stimulate students' critical thinking, and create dynamic lessons, O'Rourke said. Recently, she held a writing contest based on the popular novel "The Hunger Games," which spurred one student to write a 72-page story as a start to her own novel.
"She raises kids to their highest level," O'Rourke said.
Mieliwocki said in a statement that it took her awhile to get to teaching, which she now describes as her "calling." She originally set out to be a lawyer, then veered into publishing before following the footsteps of her parents, who were both 30-year teaching veterans.
"It's in my DNA," she said. "It's who I am. It's who I'm supposed to be."
Mieliwocki was named one of five California Teachers of the Year in November. In January, she was chosen as one of four finalists from the state winners across the country for the national award.
As national winner, she'll spend the next year as a full-time spokeswoman for education. The 62-year-old Teacher of the Year program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
"Students learn best when they have the most enthusiastic, engaged teachers possible," Mieliwocki said.