Former P.S. 41 science teacher Geri Cilmi’s motto to her students in the Bayside school was “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”
So when she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, instead of fretting about it, Cilmi took all the necessary treatment and fought the disease with a smile, her husband, Tom, said.
“She was fantastic,” he said. “[Doctors] were amazed at her attitude and everything was just hunky-dory.”
But the cancer attacked strong in 2011 and Cilmi, a mother of one and beloved public school teacher of four decades, died that May. To honor her memory and achievements, a former student, Thomas Fennell, requested a street be co-named and Community Board 11 approved it. Family and friends will gather on June 20 as Councilman Paul Vallone unveils the new Mrs. Geri Cilmi Place at 214th Lane behind the school.
Cilmi began teaching in 1967 as a substitute teacher in Brooklyn elementary schools. When she shifted to P.S. 41 in 1989 she became a full-time science teacher. She retired in 2008.
Photo courtesy Thomas Cilmi
During her time at P.S. 41, Cilmi was loved by colleagues and students for her extraordinary effort as a teacher. Cilmi hosted science nights in the school, where parents and students were able to do a variety of experiments. She applied for numerous grants for the school, including one from NASA for a weather station. She also set up the school’s garden. She was vice president of the Elementary School Science Association (ESSA) and made various science presentations for children.
“She was one of those people that were a natural teacher,” said second grade teacher Diane DiBlasi, who worked with Cilmi at P.S. 41 for two decades. “She opened up the world to so many children in a positive way.”
Outside of teaching, Cilmi was a bright woman who loved to dance and a devoted mother who raised her son to be a Harvard University-educated doctor. She listened to The Beatles and Elvis Presley, and loved to draw. Cilmi desired to write a children’s book, but never had the chance.
Tom will be present at the ceremony and believes his wife deserves the honor.
“It gives me the feeling that she really accomplished something,” he said. “She touched a lot of people and an awful lot of children.”