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. ‘‘I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t want to be carried out on a stretcher.’’
It is unclear if 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. They say she’ll be sorely missed.
‘‘She is utterly unique,’’ said English teacher Holly Korbonski, who had Gilbert as her English teacher in 1978. ‘‘We’re all sort of bereft, honestly.’’
Korbonski remembers Gilbert customizing reading lists for each student.