It will be the end of an educational era in Moate at the end of February when Moate Community School principal Kevin Duffy retires.
The Mayo native is currently in his 41st year as a teacher in the school and his 26th as principal.
Stating that he was not looking forward to leaving the school, Mr Duffy told the Westmeath Independent this week: "But I have served 41 years here and maybe it's time that I moved on and did something different."
However, he said he would be leaving Moate Community School with a deep sense of pride at the school's growth and development.
"I am proud of what's been achieved here .... I am proud of the extension that was built here during my time and proud of the progress we have made." He acknowledged that his work had been made all the easier thanks to the support he had received from the community, the school's teaching staff and the pupils.
Although the post of principal had been a demanding job, it was also intensely rewarding. "It certainly hasn't been like going to work," he said, of his time as principal.
The school, including Moate Business College, now counts 1,225 pupils on its books.
But when Kevin first arrived as a Geography, English and Economics teacher back in 1971, his posting was to Moate Vocational School, the then smallest of the town's three second level educational facilities. He became principal of Moate VS in the mid 1980s at a time when the enrolment was under 100 pupils.
In 1991, Moate VS and the Sisters of Mercy amalgamated to form a single successful school - Mercy College - with Kevin acting as co-principal.
The issue of amalgamations emerged yet again five years later, when Mercy College sought further accommodation and the matter was resolved when the Department of Education decided to progress an amalgamation with the Carmelite College, with the then Mercy College chosen to be the site for Moate's single school, to be called Moate Community School.
The merging of the traditions of the three different schools was a difficult task for Kevin as the new principal of Moate Community School but the school has grown and developed in the intervening years.
Kevin attributes much of the school's success to its distinctive ethos.
"I believe very strongly in the whole holistic approach to education. I believe there has to be a balance between the educational and the extra curricular," he explained.
And it's an approach that has served Moate CS well over the years as the school has developed a fine reputation for sport, arts and civic responsibility. Kevin believes the approach of focusing on all aspects of personal development in young people, has helped to mould the "responsible adults you would like to think they are when they leave here".
A passionate advocate of the potential of young people, Kevin believes the current generation of students are "some of the finest young people".
And he rejects claims which are currently popular among some third-level academics and employers, that the second-level system, as currently constituted, does not prepare students for work and university education.
Kevin said students leave "confident, talented and well educated by and large".
The role of a teacher too has changed dramatically during Kevin's career, from that of a 'sage on the stage' where the teacher stood at the top of the classroom and imparted knowledge to the modern role as a facilitator to learning.
However, he laments the proposed cuts to guidance counsellor posts at a time he said when they were most needed. Describing the cuts as "disappointing and baffling", he said they were occurring at a critical time for the country and the economy.
Kevin and his wife Therese live in Moate and have two adult daughters, Sharon and Nicola.
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