News / Longevity
American Oldest Teacher, 102 years old, Agnes Zhelesnik
At 102 years old, Agnes Zhelesnik is not like many of her peers. Why? Still active and (fairly) independent for her age, she goes to work every single day. Zhelesnik, who doctors say has the heart of a 40-year-old woman, teaches cooking and sewing to preschool and elementary-aged students at The Sundance School in North Plainfield, NJ.
Equally impressive, Zhelesnik didn't even start working at the school until she was 80, after her daughter, who is an art teacher at the same school, suggested she help out in the cafeteria. And after a life spent as a housewife, she was all too excited to accept an open position as the home economics teacher later on.
'Granny,' the nickname she goes by at school, loves her job as much as when she started working. "I just love it here... They're going to use [what I teach them] for the rest of their lives. They're not going to have it just for today," she said to The 74 Million education group. She also goes above and beyond her job duties to ensure the best for her kids. She hand-sews aprons for all of the youngsters, for instance, and has even created costumes for their school plays in the past.
Zhelesnik, who gets driven to work by her daughter, is beloved by fellow teachers and students alike. "Granny is a beam of light, this gentle strength and warmth that emanates from her at all times. We have this incredible opportunity to be in her presence and to be able to learn from her," says W.J. O'Reilly, the school's principal.
With no plans of retiring anytime soon, Zhelesnik shared her simple but profound secret to her long career - happiness. "This is happiness for me. I don't get tired when I'm happy."
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