After national recognition, Mieliwocki gets a raucous homecoming

A week that started with a national television appearance and a visit to the White House came full circle Monday as newly-named  National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki was given a raucous welcome home by students and colleagues at Luther Burbank Middle School.

The event marked her first official appearance as the nation’s top educator, and attracted a wide swath of public officials, including Rep. Brad Sherman, State Supt. Tom Torlakson and California Teachers Assn. President Doug Vogel.

Mieliwocki used the occasion to thank everyone from Burbank Unified Supt. Stan Carrizosa to her classroom janitor.

“At 43, I understand how life works,” said Mieliwocki, a longtime Glendale resident. “You surround yourself with good people and you shut up and you listen to what they have to say and you watch what they do and you try to soak it all up. You end up being uniquely you, but ultimately a patchwork quilt of all the amazing people you have learned from.”

Hundreds of Burbank students and staff donned white T-shirts imprinted with Mieliwocki’s face for the celebration. 

Social studies teacher Stefanie Enokian, who works closely with Mieliwocki, described her as a wonderful collaborator whose creativity and good cheer is contagious.  

“It is a big deal, especially with all the resources that are being cut,” Enokian said. “You have to come up with new, innovative ways to teach these kids.”

Student Amanda Bennett, 13, said that one of Mieliwocki’s most memorable assignments was an audio story in which students were required to interview and record an interesting person.

“I think she deserves it,” Amanda said of the national recognition. “She makes it fun for us to learn.”

Mieliwocki was raised in Napa by two educators, and now is in her 10th year with Burbank Unified. She currently teaches seventh-grade English at Luther. 

In October, she was recognized as a Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year. One month later, she took the statewide honor.

She will complete the current school year before taking a one-year sabbatical to work as a spokeswoman with the Council of Chief State School Officers. Her schedule will include more than 200 appearances in the United States and abroad.

Mieliwocki’s 11-year-old son, Davis, said that even while in Washington D.C. she kept herself busy with school work.

“I am really happy for her,” said Davis, who attends Glenoaks Elementary School in Glendale. “I think she earned it.”

Carrizosa, who accompanied Mieliwocki to the White House ceremony last week, said that Burbank is known nationally as home to some of the biggest names in the entertainment world.

“What we were able to show them these last few days in Washington D.C. is that there is a whole other class of superheroes that come from Burbank, and that is our teachers,” Carrizosa said.

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