LOS ANGELES — Rose Gilbert wanted to be a schoolteacher since she was in the first grade and was inspired by the teacher who taught her to read and write.
Gilbert carried out that childhood dream with a rare commitment — she retired last week at the age of 94 after a 63-year teaching career in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
"I'm going to be 95. I looked in the mirror and said, 'I better do it now before I get too old,' " she joked.
It's unclear whether Gilbert is the oldest full-time classroom teacher among the nation's teaching corps of more than 3 million, but she certainly ranks among the most senior. She started teaching in the 1940s, took a break and then returned to the classroom in 1956.
In 1961, she joined the staff at the brand new high school opening in the well-heeled Pacific Palisades section of Los Angeles and remained there until Feb. 22, passing along her passion for poetry and literature to generations of students.
Some of her former students are now teachers at Palisades Charter High School and say she'll be sorely missed.
"She is utterly unique," said English teacher Holly Korbonski, who had Gilbert as her English teacher in 1978.
It was her love of children that kept Gilbert teaching, even when her wealthy developer husband died in 1987 and left her a fortune. She has plowed much of the money back into education.
Her retirement promises to be active.
"I have loads of energy," she said. "I want to devote it to good causes."