| Christina Horsten |
New York (dpa) – Heading to work, Madeline Scotto refuses to use a cane, for a simple reason: “I can’t carry my bookcase with a cane, and a bookcase is more important.”
It means that three times a week, Scotto leaves her New York City home in the heart of Brooklyn, taking a risk caneless, but with a briefcase filled with books to use at her workplace, a Catholic elementary school, St Ephrem.
The petite woman with the short, white hair is a math teacher there, and has been for exactly 60 years. In mid-October, Madeline Scotto turned 100, something she acknowledges with merely a shrug.
“I think it just happens, you know. You don’t even realize it. I guess I’m very lucky.”
For her, age is not a reason to quit teaching. “I pray hard, I really work hard and I’m happy. That’s not my fault. All the people around me make me happy,” she says about her work environment. Besides which, teaching keeps her feeling young.
When Scotto was born in October 1914, Europe was just marching off into World War I.
In 1928, when the first group of school children – including Madeline – graduated from the 1922-founded St Ephrem school, the area around it in Brooklyn consisted of fields and farms.
Now, 86 years later, the area is known as Dyker Heights, is densely populated, and is predominantly populated by Chinese immigrants.
Then a mother of five, Scotto began teaching at St Ephrem in 1954. A man named Dwight D Eisenhower was the US president at the time.
“I came over and then they wouldn’t let me go,” she says simply about how things developed at the school.
Sixty years later, always elegantly dressed and wearing jewellery, Scotto is the uncontested star of the institution.
“She lights up the place,” says school principal Annamarie Bartone. “She is amazing and the kids love her.”
Scotto nowadays does not give regular math instruction, but instead focuses on holding courses to prepare kids for the mathematics competitions which are so popular in the United States.
“I never think of a child as, ‘He was a winner, he was a loser.’ My only criterion is, ‘Did he work hard?’” she told the local New York information portal dnainfo.com.
For her 100th birthday, all the classes of the school held a big party in the gymnasium, with cake, balloons, poems, songs and a short film.
The students described their century-old teacher with words like “nice, honest, happy, smart, out of this world … an inspiration.”
One little girl came up to her and said “you are such a sweet lady. You show us how to make the most of life and we love you.”
Madeline Scotto was seen wiping away a few tears before she came to the microphone.
“I can’t thank you all enough. This is incredible. No one else will ever experience anything like this.”
Scotto’s husband Francis died in 1999, while almost all of her five children, in contrast to her, are retired, something she says is “a big family joke”. She has nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
The whole family got together for her 100th birthday for a nice meal out.
But at her request there were no presents.
“I don’t need anything, really. My life has been very rich.”