Queens, NY – New York is toasting a retired public school teacher who, at 100 years old, has lived through two global pandemics.
United Federation of Teachers [UFT] member Luisa Ceci Jacobson celebrated her centennial on May 10, with friends and family forming a cavalcade of cars honking horns and cheering the Italian emigre outside her home in Bayside, Queens.
Jacobson taught at several schools throughout Queens, Brooklyn and L.I. throughout her 27-year teaching career, but the bulk of it was spent at I.S. 109 (then J.H.S. 109) in Queens Village.
“She’s a very accomplished individual who has been a pillar for her family and her community,” said New York City Council Member Barry Grodenchik, who, along with State Senator John Liu, honored Jacaboson with a special New York proclamations. “It’s no ordinary feat for someone to turn 100 years old!”
Jacobson came to the United States when she was 7-years-old, and, according to her daughter Carole Papadatos, was the first woman from the village of Vallacorsa, Italy to attend college.
She initially attended the University of Rome, but after World World II broke out Jacobson attended the University of Southern California and later received her Master’s degree at Hunter College in the 1940s, according to Papadatos.
“I was born three months before women had the right to vote,” Jacobson once said. “I broke my own glass ceiling by being the first woman from my hometown to attend university. Women have made progress in this world, that’s for sure. It’s not a man’s world anymore; it’s becoming a woman’s world.”
The mother of four and grandmother of six started teaching in 1955 and speaks fluent Italian, English and Spanish.
Despite not writing a thesis, Jacobson earned all her credits towards what could have been a doctorate’s degree in education before retiring in 1982.
“She taught Italian, Spanish and at one point she also taught Math,” said daughter Carole Papadatos. “I always wanted to teach as a little girl, and I was partially inspired by her. She loved teaching, she loved working with kids.”
After retiring, Jacobson would go to the Young Israel Senior Center in Holliswood three times a week to have lunch and play bridge. But since the coronavirus outbreak, she has been forced to stay at home.
“She used to hang out with the people there,” said Papadatos. “So she misses that the most.”
At 100, Jacobson has now lived through the 1918 Spanish Flu and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemics.