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Sally leaves St Senan’s with fond memories

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AFTER 17 years as principal of St Senan’s, Sally O’Neill is retiring next month.
Living in Quin, Sally had taught in Ballycar before taking the job at St Senan’s, which she found very rewarding.
“I reallly enjoyed it, it was a central part of my life. I worked with fantastic teachers really, the group that were there when I started had great experience and I learned from them.
“The deputy principals I worked with were all absolutely super. Midway through my time at St Senan’s there were a lot of changes, and the teachers we had were a fantastic team; hard-working, dedicated, professional people. It was just a joy.
“I didn’t know anything really about Shannon when I started there and the people of Drumgeely were so welcoming to me. They were generous in spirit and every way, we did a lot of fundraising for the school, the Parents’ Association always rowed in. There was great spirit and great heart, from the start to finish. They were a joy to work with. I had a great time at St Senan’s, loved the job, loved the children. It’s the people that make the job more than anything else.”
With new pupils always coming and others moving on to second level, she says that teaching always remains fresh.
“You’re always working with young people which is a privilege as a teacher. The children never grow old, there’s a new group of children every year. You’re constantly wondering how you can improve your teaching or the teaching of the school, which always needs to be done. Every September there’s a freshness in the school.”
She agrees that teaching in 2021 is very different to when she started her career.
“Yes, of course it has, it ahs changed dramatically. You teach for the present, for the children that are here and the way they are now, the resources and facilities that are there now.
“As a career it’s great in that it’s constantly evolving, constantly changing to meet the needs of the current generation of children. When I started teaching in 1982 you had a stick of chalk and the blackboard and that was it, but there have been a number of curriculum changes since, a huge amount of innovation in education. That’s a good thing, but it’s challenging too.”
While a lot has changed, she feels that the basic requirements of children are just as they always were. “Children are children. Children need the same basic things. They need good teaching, they need care, they need attention. Children always need those basic intrinsic things, that’s the same in 2021 as it was in 1982 when I started teaching.
“The challenges are different, especially with social media and that. It’s more difficult for children in 2021 really. Society has changed radically. When I started teaching in Ballycar every child had a mother and father, they’d go out and play games, but it’s not the case in 2021. Family life is very different, social media has a huge impact on their lives, technology has a huge impact on their lives.”
Sally says she was conscious of the responsibility given to her by parents, and tried to do everything she could for the children in her school.
“It’s a privilege really to teach children. Every parent who sends their child to school are entrusting you to teach the child. That trust that’s given to you, it’s huge, and there’s an onus on you to do your very best. Trying to do that, I did enjoy it. I have to say I loved working with the staff, they’re great. It wouldn’t always be easy, but I loved going to school every day. I really enjoyed going into the yard every morning and meeting the children and hearing what they’d have to say to you and the innocence of it. The small ones could be bursting to tell you something, full of enthusiasm. Even the older children, they wouldn’t have the same gusto, but they’d have vulnerabilities that you’d be watching out for. The best of it was working with the people I worked with, the children, the staff and the parents.”
While she doesn’t have any firm plans for retirement, she does want to keep busy.
“I’ll have to do something, it’s not good for a person to be sitting at home looking at the four walls!”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.