Commencement 2012: Teacher of the Year Addresses Education Grads

Uploaded by CalStateNorthridge on 14.06.2012

One of our very own, Miss Rebecca Mieliwocki, has been chosen as the 2012 National Teacher
of the Year.
Many of you have witnessed the wonderful job she did in accepting an award from President Obama.
She represents everything that is right about teaching and teachers in America.
Most importantly, she exemplifies a caring professional who puts kids and families first.
So without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce Rebecca Mieliwocki. (Applause)
I've been to these things before. They usually take about 16 hours. I thought I'd have a few
hours before I was on, but, um, I guess not.
Thank you, Interim President Hellenbrand. Thank you, Dean Spagna.
Thank you the Class of 2012 for inviting me to be here with you today. It's my great honor.
This is my first commencement address, and-- I know, right? (Applause and cheers) Man.
Um, I would think it's appropriate to start this with a moment of silence
during which would be wise to lower your expectations. (laughter, and some breathing)
Almost (more laughter and breathing).
That about does it. Good.
Alright so like I said this is my first commencement address and caps off of a really thrilling
week of communication with young people.
And I want you to know your place in this important hallowed week.
So I thought I would share my week with you.
You see, I teach seventh grade. Today was my last day and it's maturity week in middle school.
And in case you don't know what that means, it means in the science classes there's some
really special lessons going on. (Laughter)
And um those lessons actually generate more questions than they answer.
And so being a good team teacher that I am,
I seek to help Mr. Lendy, you know, answer some of the deep and I won't say probing, that's
inappropriate (Laughter)
questions that the kids have and so this week I got to talk about.
"Um, why do I have so much hair down there?" (Laughter)
And "why is it so small?" (Laughter)
And, "Mrs. Mieliwocki, what is a booty call?" (Laughter)
On Tuesday I got to explain to poor Jasmine why she won't be getting a passing grade on
her Renaissance research paper.
Because (clears throat) one,
it's ripped entirely from that august font of wisdom, Wikipedia. (Laughter)
And two, I'm pretty certain that Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling of the 16th chapel.
I checked Yesnet, it was the 17th get your facts right, Jasmine. (Laughter)
On Wednesday I got to call Mrs. Jackson and say that it appeared her daughter had come
to school without pants on.
Only to find out that no, indeed that four inch little scarf of fabric covering
up that 12 -year-old's pelvis
was the skirt she was sent out the door in. Awkward. (Laughter)
And today, Thursday, here I am with you, expected to deliver some profound and motivational
words of wisdom,
as you go on your journey. And I just want to say that for your sake in mine,
I hope it goes a lot better than the rest of my week has. (Laughter)
So, seeing as this is my first address, I did a lot of research.
You've been doing a lot of research. I did a lot of research
and I Youtubed a whole bunch of commencement addresses and I found out that you know,
in addition to being motivational and wonderful and inspiring
they all had one thing in common, they were all 20 minutes.
Steve Jobs, God rest his soul, 20 minutes.
Maria Shriver's last week, 20 minutes.
Barack Obama's, Mitt Romney's, Will Ferrell's, Conan O'Brien's, everyone's 20 minutes.
And yet in every pre-commencement conversation I had with Dean Spagna, he vigorously reiterated
that I would have 10 minutes. 10. (Laughter)
Not 11, not 12, 10, 9 actually, 8 would be preferable, 10. (Laughter)
And at first I tried not to be offended. I mean, my God, I'm not a celebrity or anything
and then it dawned on me.
I'm so glad I work in education.
I'm used to getting the results that everyone else gets with half the resources. (Cheers and Applause)
But I've already wasted two of my eight minutes, so I'm going to go ahead and go on.
I was recently named the National Teacher of the Year, at the White House
by our president, Barack Obama. (Cheers and Applause) What a moment, oh my gosh.
Girls, he's every thing you'll imagine him to be, (laughter) he's tall, he's handsome,
he was genuine, he was real, authentic. He was such a nice man.
Also re- electable, I believe. (Laughter and cheers)
He was so generous to invite me to his house, our house really.
To receive that honor, one that I share with millions
of amazing teachers across this nation and that day was a highlight,
but, I have to tell you, 15 years ago when I walked off this campus
with my credential and into my classroom that felt like home. (Someone whistles)
Being in my classroom is home for me. You see, the central truth of my life and probably
yours is that I'm a teacher.
It's my passion, it's my calling. It's what I am supposed to be doing.
It is a deeply challenging and ultimately so satisfying swirl.
Speaking of swirls, teaching is in many ways
is the educational, emotional equivalent of white water rafting. (laughter)
Periods of calm are occasionally interrupted with frantic bursts of turbulence.
Boredom mixes with excitement.
Beauty and reflection mix with doubt, disappointment, hesitation.
There are moments of the exhilaration followed by near death encounters.
Some days you're going to confidently navigate the treacherous rapids, but others, the entire
boat capsizes.
I mean you go into it right, well prepared, excited, dry.
You endure a thousand different challenges, each one different from the next,
and you gather skill and confidence along the way,
and you are going to get tossed and tumbled about by the experience.
And that river, well, it spits you out at the end exhausted
crawling on your hands and knees up that shore kissing every blessed rock along the way.
And realizing that, you're so thankful to be alive and you swear to yourself,
"I'm never going to do that again!"
But you know what? The next day dons and its fresh and filled with promise and possibility
and you say,
anything that's really that good or any good at all deserves another go.
And so you go back to the river, this is teaching.
To be more specific thats the first day of teaching. (Laughter)
Yeah, but despite all the turmoil of the thrills and the chills there's glory there,
real glory, and you will be blessed and honored to return to that river day after day.
As an English teacher I have spent my fair share of time in metaphor junctions,
so if you'll permit me, I'm gonna run with this whole whitewater rafting thing with you, not to be glib, no.
But because when you work in education, it ends up being a pretty apt metaphor.
You see you're about to embark on a trip of a lifetime
and you've already taken so many of the steps that you needed to prepare for your journey.
Look at you here, your degree nearly in hand.
This is such a proud moment for you for your families and for this university. Congratulations.
(Applause and Cheers)
But before you go, there a few things I'd like you to consider.
No matter where in education you begin your journey, you're going to be in the same boat,
with lots of like-minded individuals who want to do what you want to do
and they've chosen to go on the same journey with you.
make sure you honor their compassion and their commitment and their dedication just as much
as you do your own.
A friendly smile an outstretched hand, a warm genuine welcome to all who climb aboard are
an absolute must.
Whatever you do when once you shove off you've all got to row in the same direction,
or you're not gonna get anywhere very fast.
Identify your goals, create a vision of success
and then co-operate and collaborate until you get there.
Talk to one another, help your colleagues learn from them,
teach them, listen to them. speak the truth to them even when doing so is uncomfortable.
Make each other look good because if you do
you're going to get exactly where you meant to go
and you're gonna look good doing it.
It helps on this journey if you bring an experienced guide, someone who has gone down this river before.
Someone who has the wisdom and the wherewithal to share with you that wisdom at the moment
that it can do you the most good.
Find them. They're waiting for you. I wish I could say they're in the faculty lunch room
but they probably aren't. These people are busy.
They're in classrooms working on their lessons.
They're in the classrooms at lunch helping kids.
They're out on campus making their school the best school it can be.
They're busy people, but find them, they're out there waiting for you.
They will help you become the you you're supposed to be,
and they'll help you.
They'll help guide you expertly, so please find them.
You've got to have a cooler. (Laughter) You've got to have a cooler,
and it's got to be full of the things that nourish and sustain you
and I think some of you,
have already taken my advice as I look out in the stands.
So that's a good thing.
Eat well, exercise, read, travel.
Do all of the things that make you an amazing person and an incredible teacher to have.
Whatever you do, do not become the job.
Let the job become a beautiful reflection of the unique person that you are.
You're gonna encounter dangerous rapids.
You're gonna hit some rocks the boats gonna tip over and you're going to fall overboard.
It happens. That's not going to kill you.
You will be embarrassed by your mistake, you will be humbled.
You may even be humiliated, you might lose your job.
You're going to, it will be okay. Learn from your mistakes, get better.
That's all we can ask of anybody. Learn from your mistakes,
and when you've come up for air reach back to the boat,
because you'll see dozens of outstretched arms waiting to pull you back to safety.
It's happened to all of us. We've all been there. You'll be okay.
But most importantly, remember from time to time to look up from what you're doing
your life's work, and see the beauty that surrounds you. Really see it.
Take time to look at what it is you're doing.
See the hope, the pride, the expectation in the faces of the children you'll teach.
In the colleagues with whom you'll do your life's work and in the parents, whose children's
futures you shape.
Take it in. Really marvel at the beauty, the power, the responsibility that you have as
an educator.
It is an amazing thing. Each child, each lesson,
each day that you spend in the service of educating another human being
Is your opportunity to change the world.
To create the better world we all want to live in,
and to form the futures we leave our children and theirs.
Take time to look up and see the work you're doing.
This is your life 's work. This is the river you return to.
Now I'm not certain if my metaphor held up
and I suppose if it didn't that I can only leave you with this,
that in my foolish attempts to paint a bigger picture for you, what it all boils down to
is essentially very, very simple.
Work hard, stay curious, get better at your job every day.
Surround yourself with great people respect every person you teach, but please love them even more.
Ennoble this profession with your efforts,
be kind to everyone but by God have fun. You are about to go on the ride of a lifetime.
Congratulations for all you have done to get this far in your journey
and my great good luck to you as you travel on.
Thank you so much.
(Applause and cheering)