2012 Teacher of the Year laments education cuts

Rebecca Mieliwocki
Rebecca Mieliwocki, 2012 National Teacher of the Year, on "CBS This Morning."

(CBS News) Rebecca Mieliwocki, the 2012 National Teacher of the Year, said funding is an issue facing public school students and teachers.

"We don't necessarily have the funding to keep up with all the things we need to do to give children a 21st century education," Mieliwocki said Monday on "CBS This Morning." "In my state of California, funding has been cut to such a degree it's a real challenge to stay strong. That's what we need to work on."

In a time when many worry the U.S. is falling behind in public education, Mieliwocki has been cited for her excellence. Mieliwocki, a seventh grade English teacher from Burbank, Calif., will be honored by President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday.

Mieliwocki said she's a "firm believer in accountability" for teachers. She said, "It's important for me to stay relevant, make my lessons relevant to kids' lives. My number one job is to educate them and give them the skills they need to be successful in any kind of global careers they have planned for themselves. ... I'm a firm believer in accountability, making sure I do my job with kids."

When asked how teachers should be rewarded, Mieliwocki said, it may not be with higher pay. "No teacher goes into teaching for the money. I think that's obvious. That's not why we're there," she said. "We're in there for the outcomes we get from kids and because of the work that we do changes lives. Not many people can say at the end of the day that they've really made a difference in someone's life and their future. So, that's the reward. And if you paid me a million dollars or the salary that I get, the job is no less difficult. So, I'm not sure money is the reward.

She continued, "But one of the things you could do for me is if I'm a master teacher, if I have incredible skills, put me in a position of leadership, put me in a place where I can impact other teachers and help train them and help guide them to the same kinds of successes I'm experiencing."

And how teachers should be judged?

Mieliwocki said teachers want to know what they can do to be better at what they do. "I want to be evaluated. I need to know how good I'm doing so that I can get better," she said. "Every teacher I know is on a quest to get better. So do that I need to look at, how am I doing right now? I want to look at, how are my kids doing on state assessments, how are my students doing socially and emotionally, how are they able to communicated in the modern world, how am I handling them morally, their character, all of these things need to be looked at as well as how do I contribute to my school and community? How do I reach out to parents and pull them in?"

Mieliwocki said she was notified that received the honor when she was grading papers on a Friday afternoon in her classroom. She recalled, "I couldn't believe it."