President Barack Obama presents the 2012 National Teacher of the Year award to Rebecca Mieliwocki, who teaches at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, Calif., Tuesday, April 24, 2012, during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House in Washington.

President Barack Obama presents the 2012 National Teacher of the Year award to Rebecca Mieliwocki, who teaches at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, Calif., Tuesday, April 24, 2012, during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak / April 24, 2012)

Flanked by her family and colleagues, President Obama today called Burbank Unified teacher Rebecca Mieliwocki -- the 2012 national Teacher of the Year -- “the definition of ‘above and beyond.’”

Mieliwocki, a Glendale resident who teaches English at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, was given the national prize Monday by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Known for an unconventional teaching style that emphasizes critical thinking, Mieliwocki beat out more than 50 other nominees.

At ceremony today at the White House Rose Garden, Obama told the field of candidates they were “helping to fulfill the basic promise of America.”

“When teachers like you put in the long hours, you’re serving not only your students and schools, but also your country,” he said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) also released a statement today calling Mieliwocki a "shining example for our community and our children."

For her part, Mieliwocki has deferred much of the praise to her mentors and parents, themselves public school teachers.

“I carry with me all of their talent, all of their ability, all of their experience; it has made me who I am,” she told The Leader after her award was announced.

After finishing the school year at Luther Burbank Middle School, Mieliwocki will take a one-year sabbatical to act as the spokeswoman for public education and collaborate with national policy makers.

-- Jason Wells, Times Community News

Twitter: @JasonBretWells