Palisades Charter High School's oldest faculty member Rose Gilbert, known by many as "Mama G," greeted and reminisced with multiple generations of students on Saturday, March 9.
Her "bubbies," as she used to call them, learned to pull all-nighters, to drink coffee, to dodge the Cheerios she threw at them and to bring in cookies to get out of the dog house for being late. Her students learned extensive lists of vocabulary words, how to compare two or three great novels in one carefully constructed paper, how to discern valuable verbiage from "bunk" and how to build an effective college essay. She taught the great themes of literature to so many Pali High students, and at 94 and now retired, she's given back two renovated buildings on campus.
Hundreds came to Pali High Saturday to tour the now renovated Mercer and Gilbert halls and catch up with Gilbert, who taught at the school for 52 years. She's the last active member of Pali High's charter faculty and the teacher who had been there since opening day in 1961.
Topping her celebration when Pali High turned 50 years old, Gilbert is certainly one of the oldest teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District and ranks up there as the most senior teacher in the nation, according to the Huffington Post.
"'Mama G' is helping make Pali High the best school in L.A. and on the planet," Principal Pam Magee told attendees at the farewell gathering.
Author Ben Hellwarth, of Santa Monica and Pali High Class of '78, just finished a book entitled Sealab about working on the ocean floor. Hellwarth said Gilbert got her students "fired up" about fiction, so before greeting her after many years he said hoped he didn't get in trouble with her for crossing over into the nonfiction realm.
"She gave me a sense of curiousity, determination and a love for English," said Sara Jane Boyers, of Pacific Palisades and class of '63.
EchoPark-SilverLake Patch Editor Anthea Raymond grew up in Pacific Palisades and had Gilbert in class. Raymond reconnected with her former English teacher on Saturday.
"She taught about the importance of writing as a way of communication and also documentation," she said. "She taught that literature can be fun. I ended up majoring in literature in college and I would not have done that without her."
Cathy Salser, of Pacific Palisades and class of '84, became an art teacher and is the executive director of A Window Between Worlds in Venice, a non-profit dedicated to using art to help end domestic violence. Salser said Gilbert came to her office a week after retiring and is helping there twice a week.
Twins Angie Joseph Shaw, of Playa del Rey, and Nickie Joseph Spoltore, of Brentwood and both class of '63, came to see Gilbert. They said she taught speed reading before anyone knew what it was, and that Gilbert allowed students to read good literature.
Amy Lewis, of Brentwood and class of '76, said she was unfortunate not to have Gilbert as a student but her daughter Becca took a class with Gilbert in 2011.
"In retrospect, I wish I had her," Lewis said. "She individualized this for the other kids and what turned them on to literature."
Congratulations to Rose Gilbert and thank you for your many years of service to the Palisades and greater Los Angeles community!