Class act: Limerick principal retires after 40 years

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

“I GAVE most of my life teaching with an overactive blackboard, now we have interactive whiteboards!” joked Michael Hennessy, retiring principal of Kilteely National School after 40 years.

“I GAVE most of my life teaching with an overactive blackboard, now we have interactive whiteboards!” joked Michael Hennessy, retiring principal of Kilteely National School after 40 years.

Last year Mr Hennessy’s wife, Marie, retired after 35 years. Born in Kilkee but living in Emly, Mr Hennessy came to Kilteely in 1972 at just 19. Four years later Marie joined him. It is the only school he ever taught in.

A thanksgiving Mass and retirement function was organised in the parish hall to mark Mr Hennessy’s 40 year contribution to education in the village.

“I will certainly miss teaching and the interaction with the children. You’d never last a job that long unless you were getting something back from it.

“I got fantastic job satisfaction in watching children progress. It is easy to teach a smart child but seeing a pupil initially finding it difficult with a new concept, and watching that pupil progress and make headway - there is great satisfaction in that. I will certainly miss the welcome smiles you get from the little ones in the morning and the friendships with staff and parents,” said Mr Hennessy, who spent 33 of his 40 years as principal.

Education in the village dates back to the 1830s. Fittingly the parish hall, where his function was held, is where the first primary school was built.

The current school was built in 1889. A lot has changed since then and in Mr Hennessy’s time he has also seen massive changes.

“There has been a revolution in technology. I can remember buying a spool tape recorder with the big reels in my first year teaching. We progressed on to cassette recorders and film strip projectors. A lot of rural schools had no phones up to 20 years ago.

“In the mid 90s the first computers appeared. Things have accelerated rapidly since then. Now it is computers and interactive whiteboards,” he said. Prices have risen too as he can recall in the 1972 Kilteely newsletter a bus trip to Ballybunion, organised by David O’Meara, costing a pound.

“I’m proud and privileged to have had the opportunity of working there for 40 years. I wouldn’t have lasted 40 years without the loyal, diligent and totally committed staff that I worked with.

“It was a team effort between parents, children, staff, priests, Tidy Towns, board of management and parents association. We are paid members of staff but they do it all voluntarily. They do a lot of work behind the scenes and get no credit for it. I thank everybody for their generosity and good wishes,” said Mr Hennessy, who wished his successor, Sarah Jones, the best of luck.

Fr Conor Hayes said the Hennessys gave faithful service to many generations of pupils. “They have made a massive contribution to the lives of young people and we wish them health and happiness in their retirement,” said Fr Hayes.