America’s oldest teacher turns 99, refuses to retire

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good NewsJanuary 22, 2013

Her students call her "Granny." She doesn't mind.

Agnes Zhelesnik, America's oldest teacher, just turned 99 — and she has no plans to retire.

Staff, students and family recently celebrated the milestone at The Sundance School in New Jersey where Zhelesnik teaches classes on cooking, sewing and costume-making.

“This party is not just to celebrate a birthday. We are honouring the life of an incredible woman," said Kaysie Norman, the Head of Marketing and Events for Sundance. "Granny represents everything that Sundance is all about: happiness, commitment, creativity and so much love. Granny comes to work every single day with a smile on her face. She knows everyone’s name. She never has a complaint and you’ll never see her sitting down. She also has no plans to retire. She’s a true inspiration in every sense of the word."

Zhelesnik may be 99, but she's only been teaching since 1996. After spending 60 years at home as a wife and mother, Zhelesnik took up part-time teaching at the age of 81 after her husband passed away.

She now teaches full-time, every day.

"I love them. They're my best helpers. That's the only reason why I come here, is the children," Zhelesnik told CNN.

Zhelesnik, an energetic great-grandmother who still gets around without the use of a cane, works at the same school where her daughter, also named Agnes, teaches.

When asked how long she'll continue teaching, Zhelesnik answered, "Till I'm 100. I feel good enough."

And her longevity secret?

"It's the children. The children are the greatest," she said. "You know, you have your own, but when it’s these kids, they’re just something else."