National Teacher of the Year stresses the importance of teaching in speech



Ashley Gerenday

National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki told an audience of students and faculty at the Kiva, Tuesday that as teachers, they were the luckiest people in the world.

The speech was part of the Gerald H. Read Distinguished Lecture Series.

Mieliwocki took the stage following three opening presenters.

Dr. Linda Robertson, director of the Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education, spoke first, giving the audience a glimpse of Gerald H. Read and the mission he left behind.

Robertson said if Read was there, he would be thrilled by the global perspective alive in the room, which was something his family treasured.

A short presentation of awards was given by the College of Education, Health and Human Services’ Dean Daniel Mahony to scholarship winners, Jasmine McDonough, Kayla Titko and Zac Zlocki.

Next, Marissa Manocchio, president of the Kent Student Education Association, introduced Mieliwocki.

“There are millions of teachers in the United States and the best of the best is here with us in this room,” Manocchio said.

Mieliwocki opened with a story about Gary, a man she sat next to on her plane from Washington, D.C., to Ohio, who seriously doubted the teaching profession.

“Funny things happen to me on my way to speeches,” Mieliwocki said.

By the end of her plane ride, Mieliwocki had changed his outlook on the profession after sharing the power of teaching with him, just as she did the audience.

Mieliwocki said that while she may be recognized as the best teacher in the United States, she is not.

“How could you find the one best teacher?” Mieliwocki said.

What she does have that makes her one of the best teachers, Mieliwocki said, is an absolute passion for her job.

“It strikes me that teaching is the emotional equivalent of white water rafting,” Mieliwocki said.

The “swirl,” as Mieliwocki calls the ups and downs of teaching, is what makes the job worth it for her. After all the challenges, high and low points and times when teachers swear they’ll never go back, they will find something that will keep them going.

“There is glory there in the work,” she said. “Real glory.”

Mieliwocki spoke about how she found some of this glory after being nominated for her district’s teacher of the year award by her co-workers. This one nomination led her to a spiral of nominations, which led to her winning the National Teacher of the Year award.

After winning, Mieliwocki was whisked to Washington, D.C., where she met with the President for a formal awards ceremony.

“It was like the Barack and Rebecca show,” Mieliwocki said.

Once the ceremony ended, her year-long tour began where she met with state senators, appeared on television and news shows and visited Russia, China, Japan and Singapore.

Mieliwocki said she was sent to these foreign countries to find what was putting other countries’ education ahead of the United States’.

“They wanted me to go everywhere to see everything,” Mieliwocki said.

She concluded by reinforcing the message she had shared her entire speech; teaching will be hard, students will push teachers, but they will find glory in the job.

“We are the luckiest people on the earth to get to do what we do,” Mieliwocki said.

Contact Ashley Gerenday at [email protected].