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Seniors Going Strong in the Classroom
posted by: Colin | April 15, 2011, 06:45 PM   


In a time when we continually hear about the challenges of maintaining a thriving teacher workforce, the thought of someone teaching until well past typical retirement age seems mindboggling. We are constantly bombarded with headlines and statistics about burn-out rates and shortages, but rarely do we hear success stories about educators who have truly committed their lives to helping students.


Ms. Agnes Zhelesnik, who is 97 years old, is not only the country's oldest teacher, but is also thought to be a great innovator in education. She was featured on ABC news recently, not only for the length of her career, but also because she continues to approach her craft with creativity and perseverance.

Lovingly referred to as "Granny," Ms. Zhelesnik teaches preschool classes Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and volunteers extra time after school to teach sewing. Despite her age, she is showing no signs of slowing down and continues to come up with new ideas to engage her young students, such as baking banana bread to teach about the spelling of the word banana.

88-year-old Ms. Rose Gilbert is another life-long committed educator. As an advanced placement English teacher at a charter school in Los Angeles, Ms. Gilbert's main priority is instilling a love of learning in her students.

"I want them all to just live literature, love poetry and love life — not just get caught up in grades," she says.

Ms. Gilbert is the oldest teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and has taught at her school since it opened in the early 1960's. Although she doesn't have to work, Ms. Gilbert claims to have more energy than her students and a true zest for teaching.

"Mama G's energy is infectious", said Masha Elakovic, a 17-year-old senior who's had Ms. Gilbert as a teacher for the past two years. "She comes in, she is really pumped up."

When policy makers and reformers are constantly debating ways to encourage college students to pursue a career in teaching, I can think of no better way than for prospective teachers to be inspired than to hear the stories of these amazing women. Their dedication to their craft is truly an example for all.

Could you see yourself staying in education for the long haul?
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>> Originally posted by Alix on the AAE Blog.
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