As I left for work this morning, I saw posts on the Pacific Palisades Facebook Community about the death of Rose Gilbert at age 95. I’ve been thinking about this as I eat lunch, for Rose was one of those remarkable teachers who taught for the love of it, to inspire her students to be better people — it wasn’t just a job eeking out the years. When Rose retired in March 2013 at the age of 94, she was the oldest full-time teacher in LAUSD, and had been teaching for 63 years. The first few years of that teaching career was at University HS; the remainder — since the school opened — was at Palisades HS. Further, she didn’t have to teach — she married into money and was essentially (and in reality, after his death) a millionaire. She donated largely to the school, including funds to build an on-site aquatic center.
Now, I never had a class from Mrs. Gilbert. She had the AP English and AcaDec students, not folks like me. But she is a shining examples of those public school teachers who change lives. This little woman — who everyone called “Mama G” — made the difference to untold numbers of students. I can think of numerous other examples at Pali — Bill Layton comes to mind — as well as the teachers who influenced the direction of my life. In particular, I think of George Wendt and Larry Schoenberg (son of the composer, Arnold Schoenberg), who influenced me to go into the computer world. I see similar teachers going above and beyond regularly — such as Fanny Araña and Jean Martellaro at Nobel MS, who run the drama program. These are teachers that change lives for the better. These are also the teachers that one never encounters if one depends only on home schooling.
So, on this day of Mama G’s death, let’s pause for a moment to reflect upon and thank the teachers that make a difference in the lives of their students. I’d love for you to share a story of a teacher that changed your life for the better.