Principal looks forward to life outside the classroom

AN ESTEEMED local principal who was instrumental during one of the biggest ever educational challenges to face the Strabane area is set to retire after almost five decades in education. 
Maria Doherty, principal of Holy Cross College in Strabane, will hang up her teaching hat next month having completed an impressive 48 years at the front of the classroom.
Speaking to the Strabane Chronicle this week, Mrs Doherty reflected on what she feels is a highly challenging but extremely rewarding profession. 
“I can honestly say teaching is the most rewarding job there is,” she said. “Being a part of the personal development of young people has always been a pleasure, and there is truly something special about Holy Cross College and what it offers to young people.”
Mrs Doherty embarked on her teaching career in 1980 at Carnhill High School in Derry, which at the time was one of the biggest schools in the North. After seven years she began a new post at the Convent Grammar School, Strabane where she remained until it was amalgamated with St Colmans High School and Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School in 2004 to form Holy Cross College.
“Carnhill was a very similar school to what Holy Cross is today,” Mrs Doherty said. “Teaching there for seven years certainly helped me cut my teeth. I learned a lot in those years, and fostered resilience and skills that would last a lifetime.” 
These skills would certainly prove useful for Mrs Doherty, who worked to ensure the smooth amalgamation of the newly formed Holy Cross College.
“The amalgamation was a challenge for both staff and pupils. From the word go we worked hard to establish a good reputation in the town, and while we initially lost a lot of pupils to grammar schools, we now have very high acceptance rates once again.”
By the time Holy Cross College was provided with a state of the art building in 2009, Mrs Doherty had been appointed principal and a new era for the school was dawning. 
“With the help of an unbelievable building, Holy Cross College was the best thing to happen to young people academically, socially and pastorally,” she said.  “While the resources are second to none, I always say, a school isnt just a building – its the people in it that make it work.”
With her career in education drawing to a close, Mrs Doherty is hopeful she has influenced others to follow a similar route.
“I hope I have inspired past pupils to consider such a worthwhile profession. I always encourage people who are thinking of teaching to pursue it, and not to give up. 
“Overall, I am privileged to have enjoyed such a worthwhile career.”

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