Educational facility combines Montessori with new grind centre

Over the course of the last twelve months, Doon native Mairéad Hennessy has developed an educational centre in Coosan which caters both for young children and exam-age teens alike. Situated at Coosan Point Road in Athlone, the facility is home to the Réalta Geal Montessori School, which opened last year and holds classes from 9am to 1pm. Once the Montessori school was firmly established, Mairéad turned her attention to expanding the range of educational services on offer. As a result, the Athlone Grind Centre was born. The centre began offering grinds last January, and can accommodate Junior Cert, fifth year and Leaving Cert students in a wide range of subjects. Mairead is well-known in Athlone, having worked in a number of childcare facilities in the town over the years. She completed a Diploma in Montessori teaching in Galway and is now in the fourth year of her five-year BA degree in Montessori education. It was her long-held ambition to start a Montessori school of her own, and she achieved this when the Réalta Geal Montessori School opened in September of 2008. Children aged between two and a half and five years attend, with Mairead teaching the senior class. She is joined at the school by Mary Curley, also a fully-trained Montessori teacher, who takes the junior class. The school - which offers state-of-the-art facilities - provides a stimulating environment for children and places a special emphasis on developing each young pupil's grasp of the Irish language. Now just over a year in business, Mairead had been delighted with the success of Réalta Geal to date. "We started out with four students but we tripled the numbers over the first year. We also ran a summer camp which was very successful and which included music, art and crafts, baking, sports and drama." The first graduates from the school were kitted out in caps and gowns for a graduation ceremony in June, while classes for the new year resumed at Réalta Geal on August 31. Another recent development was the opening of a new play room for the children, which is used for games and activities on 'Fun Day Fridays' at the school. When the young children have left, the classrooms are adapted to provide a studious environment at the Athlone Grind Centre. "We started the grind centre in January and as soon as we did we started receiving enquiries from parents," she said. At the moment the grind centre can offer tutoring in any exam subject depending on the level of demand for it. Mairéad explained that the grinds are provided by teachers who are highly experienced and qualified. "It's also convenient for parents because if they're dropping off their son or daughter to grinds they don't have to drive into the centre of town or around the schools where there's a lot of traffic. We're situated in a quiet area that's just off the the dual carriageway. Also, a lot of the students who come here are actually living in the Coosan area so they're able to cycle over to us." The Athlone Grind Centre is open from 4.30pm on weekdays and offers 90-minute grinds for those preparing for the Leaving Cert, along with 75-minute grinds for Junior Cert and fifth year students. At the moment grinds in Maths, Irish and French are being offered, and this will expand to include a range of additional subjects as the year goes on and the exams draw near. Grinds to assist students preparing for oral exams in Irish, French and German are expected to commence at the centre in January. Mairéad is also training to become a fully qualified resource teacher. When qualified, she is hoping - if there is sufficient demand - to offer resource teaching grinds to national school children who require extra assistance in such areas as language and maths. Attention to each young person's needs is a characteristic of both the Montessori school and grind centre, and Mairéad is always available to meet with parents, children and students to discuss any queries. Given strides taken by the Réalta Geal Montessori School and the Athlone Grind Centre in the relatively short space of time since they were established, it's little wonder that Mairéad is looking forward to the future. "In the future we'd like to have every subject up and running at the grind centre and we hope it's something that will be of great benefit to the students. We'd like to continue to develop this facility as an educational centre offering the Montessori school, resource teaching grinds and grinds for secondary school students," she said. * To contact Réalta Geal, or if you have any queries about Athlone Grind Centre, call Mairead on 087 6522101, or email and