Rebecca Mieliwocki spoke at Glendale High Monday evening to relate stories from her yearlong, whirlwind tour of several nations and 30 states as the National Teacher of the Year.
The journey began for the Burbank Unified teacher in the spring of 2012 when she learned she would represent more than 3 million teachers nationwide as the face of the American public school teacher.
That April, President Obama honored Mieliwocki and other educators who were named the teacher of the year for their respective states during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
The Glendale resident is back in her classroom at Luther Burbank Middle School where she teaches language arts to seventh graders.
"In my year of being out there…I wanted to restore admiration to a profession I hold so dear," she said Monday night to dozens of parents and teachers.
Of the several countries she visited from Australia to Russia to Saipan, Mieliwocki said Singapore "totally impressed me."
There, she learned that teachers are financially supported by the government, earning at least $100,000 during their first year of teaching, she said. They are also evaluated each year for their success in the classroom. Sometimes, teachers are placed on a one-year probation if they don't perform well.
"Painted on the wall is: Our next generation is only as strong as the education we give it," she said.
But in China, Mieliwocki found schools that teach children the core academics "from sun up to sun down" with no sports, field trips or student art on classroom walls.
"The teachers are miserable. The kids are miserable," she said, adding that some teachers literally clung to her to learn how the United States incorporates creativity into education.
In Japan, she found that schools don't offer special education services, and there is little technology in the classrooms.
Regardless of where she traveled to, she said, "Everywhere I went I met teachers. I found how similar we are."
While she said the American education system is still a work in progress, the country remains "the envy of every other teacher and every other education system on this planet," she said.
The Glendale High Parent Teacher Assn. hosted the event Monday night and presented Mieliwocki an honorary service award.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.