OUTGOING principal at Knockavoe School, Martina McComish says she cannot believe her tenure is coming to an end.
Speaking in her final week at the local school, the former Belfast woman was visibly emotional as she prepared to say goodbye for the final time via a special assembly organised by staff and pupils.
Describing Knockavoe as “a very affectionate school,” the 62-year-old admitted she’ll miss the children dreadfully.
“I cannot believe it,” she remarked.
“I suppose I thought about this over the past year to two years, now that I’m of a certain age.
“I suppose the school is in a really fantastic place and it has grown immensely since I took over in 2009. When I came we had approximately 70 pupils and we now have 131. So I’ve seen the school population grow, the school estate grow and the academic achievements for pupils increase.
“There’s also the number of meaningful awards the school has achieved due to the diligence and hard work of the staff, the commitment of parents and the efforts of the children.”
She added, “Although for me it’s not about awards, it’s about the work that goes into it, the collaboration amongst all staff and departments, working with outside agencies and working with the community – who are incredibly supportive.”
The former Foyleview School in Derry teacher also said that despite her role being challenging there have been a great many highlights.
“It’s been challenging but it’s been extremely rewarding,” she smiled. “I’ve never really looked at it as a job. It’s been – and I know this sounds a bit twee – but it’s been an absolute pleasure to come to work every day. Every day is different and the challenges that you face are off-set by a child taking their first steps or a child saying their first words, producing a piece of art or completing and taking home something that they’ve made in design and technology.
“In special education… when you come to work, it’s like spending time with your family. And it’s a genuinely kind, caring and pupil voice-promoting school. We try and bring out the best in every child.
“It’s time now for me to do other things in life. I’d like to travel a little bit more and maybe visit my brother who lives in Rio and I’d like to do some other projects. I’d love to do something perhaps in education or the community.
“But I’ll miss the kids most dreadfully and the buzz of school life…”
She concluded, “They know that I’m leaving and they’ll come in and see me and say, ‘I’ll miss you’. I’d say, ‘I’ll miss you too’ and then they’ll ask, ‘Do you really have to go?’
“There’s probably never a right time to go but you have to make the decision,” she added.