When invariably the subject of influential teachers arises, everyone has a story. I love to remember the best of my teachers, the ones that I still remember so clearly. So many of them slid into oblivion during the course of my life, but the important ones will remain with me so long as my memory serves me. I write sometimes of the two English teachers that influenced me to teach—Mrs. Marguerite Dearing and Mrs. Virginia McEachin. It seems natural that I would choose them because we loved the same subjects. However I well remember Mr. Akin, my trigonometry teacher, and Mrs. Wynn, my geometry and algebra teacher. Mrs. Hays was a tremendous history teacher. Their teaching methods were innovative, but they insisted on discipline, too. They had it going on long before that slang phrase was ever coined. With their teaching, they became a permanent part of my life. I wish I could say thank you.
A private school in New Jersey, the Sundance School, threw a party for Agnes Zhelesnik, who is believed to be the country’s oldest working teacher. She turned 100 on Friday (1/10/14). They decorated the auditorium with pictures of her. The crowd, including students, faculty, administrators, and a few family members, sang “Happy Birthday.” Principal Benjamin Fox read letters of birthday wishes and commendation from President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Her teaching career started when she was 81, when she became a full-time home economics teacher. She teaches students how to cook and sew at the North Plainfield school. Her daughter Agnes Arakelian teaches there, too.
When reporters asked her why she was still teaching, she replied, “You know there are lots of people out there much younger than me who sit home all day and do nothing, but I get to come here everyday and work with these kids.
It’s all about helping the kids. I intend to keep on doing this for many years to come.”
Her students were most articulate as they talked about Granny, as they call her.
“She just really loves us kids,” one girl said, “and we love her, too.”
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