Teachers of the Year 2012

Meet the award winners for 2012, including one of our own…

Jennifer Thomas

English Language Arts

SJTA’s Jennifer Thomas has been honored as one of only five national recepients of the Hoarce Mann Award for Teaching Excellence. Jennifer is also a finalist for the National Award for Teaching Excellence.

Ms. Thomas, an English teacher currently serving as President of the San José Teachers Association in the San José Unified School District in San José, CA, will receive The Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, $10,000, and recognition as one of the nation’s top educators at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala to be held on Feb. 8, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence are given annually at the Foundation’s black tie event that attracts 850 national leaders from the public education, philanthropic and business sectors, and is known as the Academy Awards of public education. The awards recognize, reward, and promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession.

“Thomas has been selected for this award by her peers because she has attained the highest teaching standards, as shown by her exemplary instruction, advocacy for the profession, attention to diversity, leadership in professional development, and engagement of parents and community,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Honoring these educators is our way of thanking them for their excellent work.”

Thomas was nominated for the award by the California Teachers Association (CTA), the state’s National Education Association affiliate.

“Ms. Thomas is a leader who advocates, through her teaching and work for her local, for all students struggling through the hard reality of California’s economic challenges,” said Dean E. Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association. “The focus of her career as a teacher has been equal access for all students, where innovation is necessary to ensure that underserved students have and experience the educational rights that have been denied to them. I am pleased to have the honor to support her and her boundless advocacy for our students and our profession.”

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Rebecca Mieliwocki

Seventh Grade, English

Luther Burbank Middle School, Burbank Unified School District

“If I accomplish anything with my students, I am proud to say it’s that when they leave my classroom, they are better people when they walked through my door.”

– Rebecca Mieliwocki

Rebecca Mieliwocki has been teaching for 13 years, including nine years at Burbank Middle School, where she teaches general education and Gifted and Talented Education classes. She is faculty chair and serves on the school leadership team. Her lessons are infused with a wide array of technical tools that, as her principal says, “brings lessons to life.”

Superintendent Torlakson: “Mrs. Mieliwocki is an innovative, creative teacher with boundless energy and an enthusiastic spirit that spreads through each class and each student. Her phenomenal approach toward teaching and her unshakable faith in the potential of her students, led me to nominate her for the national Teacher of the Year title.”

Mrs. Mieliwocki earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; and a Single Subject Professional Clear Credential in English at California State University, Northridge.

She may be reached Luther Burbank Middle School, 818-558-4646, or by e-mail at rebeccamieliwocki@burbankusd.org.

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Tom Collett

Eighth Grade, Science

Newark Junior High School, Newark Unified School District

“Students need to feel connected to their teacher, which makes them brave, enthusiastic, and eager to learn.”

– Tom Collett

Mr. Collett taught Earth Science for 17 years at Newark Memorial High School. The 2010-11 school year was his first at Newark Junior High School, where he currently teaches eighth grade science.

An eclectic mix of magician and scientist, Mr. Collett keeps his students actively engaged through a treasure trove of strategies that include hands-on learning and the use of new educational technology, like a student response system where responses to questions are sent directly to his computer.

Superintendent Torlakson: “Tom is a wonderfully effective teacher who employs a wide array of teaching techniques tailored to increase student motivation, achievement, and engagement. I appreciate his remarkable ability to prepare students for an increasingly competitive, scientific world.”

Mr. Collett earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Performance with a minor in Biology from California State University, San Jose; and a Clear Single Subject Credential in Physical Education with Supplementary Authorization in Introductory Science.

He can be reached at Newark Junior High School, 510-818-3000, or by e-mail at tcollett@nusd.k12.ca.us.

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