BY HELEN RIDDELL
PUPILS and staff at Scoil An Chroí Ró Naofa, Castletownbere, bade a fond farewell to their much-loved principal Ann McNally who retired recently after a 35-year teaching career.
The school marked Ann’s retirement at a socially-distanced graduation event for the outgoing 6th class, who had started their school days the same day as she took on the role of school principal.
‘Their first day at school was my first day as principal. I told them we were both nervous on that first day but we were in it together. We started together, and we finished school together.’
Allihies native Ann qualified as a teacher in 1985, ‘teaching was all I wanted to do, I remember when I filled out my CAO form that was all I put down.’ She first taught in Cork city before returning to Beara, taking up substitute teacher roles in Castletownbere and Bere Island.
‘When a permanent job came up in Castletownbere,’ she says, ‘I was delighted.’ She was appointed principal in 2012.
One of Ann’s former colleagues said she would be hugely missed, ‘she brought a sense of lightness and energy to the school and was always so generous with her time and wisdom. She was so proud of where she came from always instilled a sense of pride to the children of their local area and its history.’
Ann instigated a number of initiatives during her time at the school, including a dedicated classroom for children with high sensory needs, and also a monthly school Meitheal which. she outlined, ‘celebrated all achievements, and not just the academic ones.’
The last few months of Ann’s teaching career, have she says been challenging in dealing with the impact of Covid-19.
‘Everyone adapted and engaged so quickly with remote teaching, but there has always been a strong tradition of teaching and education in Beara, and people here have always been resilient.’
Ann thanked the Parents’ Association and Board of Management for their support, and wished her successor well: ‘I am hending over to very capable hands of Deirdre Lehane and I wish her many years of happiness and fulfilment as in her new role of principal. ‘
It’s been a time of mixed emotions says Ann, but she is looking forward to the next chapter. ‘There is an oft quoted saying from AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” and that pretty much sums up how I feel.’