California Educator

May 2013

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> PROFILE UTLA member "Mama G" retires at 95 Rose Gilbert in front of her "wall of fame." BY SHERRY POSNICK-GOODWIN PHOTO BY SCOTT BUSCHMAN Rose Gilbert outlasted 14 principals. She's given away millions to public education. She inspired generations of students and taught for 63 years. And now, she will enjoy her retirement, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Gilbert, or "Mama G" as she is known to students at Palisades Charter High School, retired in February. Her students were devastated. "They said, 'No, no, no! Don't you love us anymore?'" chuckles Gilbert. "I told them I had to do something new, otherwise I'd be too old. I want to retire when I'm alert and on two feet." The beginning of a legend Gilbert put herself through UCLA working as a secretary. After graduation, she signed up with the UCLA employment agency and was hired as a temp at MGM because she spoke Spanish and knew shorthand. She assisted the agent in charge of contracts with studio stars. When that person quit, Gilbert took over, working with Liz Taylor, Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Greta Garbo, Mickey Rooney and Lana Turner. Taylor and Garland were sensitive and some32 California Educator May 2013 times came to her in tears when they had problems. Garbo was difficult. "They were people, like anyone else." When Gilbert became pregnant with the first of her three children, she quit MGM and became an English teacher in 1949. On her first day as a student teacher at University High School in Los Angeles, the teacher next door had a heart attack and died. "The principal came to me and said I had to take over," she recalls. "I've been teaching ever since." When Mama G began her teaching career, schools were still segregated, the Berlin wall wasn't built, President Truman was just creating NATO, and color television had not yet entered the homes of Americans, notes a Huffington Post story. Then and now In the 1950s, girls' skirts were below the knees and boys had short hair. "Now kids wear shorts to school, and there's no hair policy," she muses. "Girls practically wear bikinis to school and pajamas. Things have changed." In the 1960s there was turmoil on campus, and students protested. "There was a student walkout over the Vietnam War, and another over whether students could have long hair. The teachers supported the kids. Now kids are apathetic. They don't care much about anything besides themselves. They are the Entitled Generation." Education became driven by standardized tests, but Gilbert didn't change her teaching style much. She donned colorful costumes and used props in class to make learning fun, once wearing a "Freudian slip" when students wrote a paper on Freud. She continued to be creative and teach her class like a college course, so her students would learn how to be critical thinkers. "I'm going to miss all that," she says.

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