PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A South Philadelphia educator was honored on Friday for 50 years of teaching.
"I love my job. I love coming to school every day. I love being with the children," Mrs. Sarah Avitalle exclaimed.
That love and a whole lot of dedication has carried Avitalle through five decades.
"I've been teaching 50 years. I was only 18 years old when I started teaching. At that time, they needed a lot of teachers, so we went to college while we taught," said Avitalle.
St. Monica's School in South Philadelphia surprised the kindergarten teacher with a celebration. She has taught several different grades over the years.
"She means a lot to this school. She's been teaching for 50 years, so everyone knows her, everyone's had her," explained 7th graded Anthony Coppola, who had Mrs. Avitalle in first grade.
7th grader Tia Esposito also had Mrs. Avitalle in first grade.
"Everyone loves her, never stop. You've got this," Esposito emphasized.
First, Avitalle was honored at Mass and later a classroom party with current and former students.
"Mrs. Avitalle taught me when I was in first grade here at St. Monica's, so that would have been in 1980. I think she inspired me to become a teacher," said Beth Coleman, now a 5th grade teacher at St Monica's.
St. Monica's alumnus and 4th grade teacher, Amanda Bonanno, added, "If there was anyone that I would go to for advice, it would have to be her."
Mrs. Avitalle told 6abc she knows she will retire one day, but she has no plans to just yet.
"Well, I'm sure with my age I'm going to have to soon, but you know if my knees hold out, I hope to at least give it a couple more years," Avitalle laughed.
Among the most meaningful messages of the day, a poem from her granddaughter Maci Haggerty, now a student at the school.
Here is an excerpt:
"Dear Mom Mom,
Thank you for every tear you wipe away/For little hands you gently hold/ For your consoling, tender heart/For all the wisdom you impart..."
Congratulations from all of us at 6abc!
South Philadelphia educator honored for 50 years of teaching