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Massachusetts Blog

Recently Named National Teacher of the Year Talks About What Makes a Great Teacher

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Rebecca Mieliwocki, a seventh-grade teacher in Burbank, California, was recently named the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. She sat down for a Q & A session with the Los Angeles Times to talk about her journey as a teacher and what makes a great teacher. Mieliwocki reinforces that we must meet our goal of keeping the best and most effective teachers in classrooms if we want to help all students succeed:

Q: Do you have problems with the teacher seniority system?

A: I teach with a young woman named Stefanie. In her first three years, she was pink-slipped every single year due to budget cuts. Stefanie is phenomenal. She does more in one day than many teachers can accomplish in a week. She gets amazing results. What's more, kids, parents and her colleagues adore her. She's the teacher every family wants their child to have. And yet, because she's the newest one in, she's the first to get cut, while across campus, there are teachers who've taught for 20 years and who haven't had a new or engaging lesson in as many years. How can we justify firing the best and the brightest again and again while we let teachers who are phoning it in keep their jobs without question? We can't risk losing these highly qualified teachers simply because they had the misfortune to be new.

Q: Is a good teacher a performer?

A: Oh definitely. You cannot be afraid to stand up in front of 30 really harsh critics. And inside of two minutes, they'll let you know: They'll put their heads down on the desk, almost give you a raspberry if your lesson stinks. So you have to be willing to take those risks every day.

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