Pictured at the INTO retirement function in Athlone last week were: Back Row (L to R) Carmel Browne, INTO CEC Rep District 7, Heather McCullagh, Cloonakilla NS, Patty Naughton, Castlesampson NS, Helen O’Toole, Branch Secretary Athlone/Moate. Front Row: Joan Conway, Cornafulla NS, Eimear Cronally, Chairperson Athlone/Moate Branch, and Geraldine McGrane, St Paul’s NS.

Careers of local teachers celebrated at Athlone retirement event

The contributions made by eight primary school retirees, who worked in schools in the wider Athlone area, were marked at a retirement function organised by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) in The Bounty last week.

Four of the retirees - Heather McCullagh (Cloonakilla NS), Joan Conway (Cornafulla NS), Geraldine McGrane (St Paul's NS) and Patty Naughton (Castlesampson NS) - were in attendance for the event which took place on Monday, November 14, and featured music by The Henshaw Family.

Also honoured on the night were Noreen Horan (Tang NS), Brid Kilgannon (St Peter's NS), and Ide Rowe and Sean Cooney (Scoil na gCeithre Máistrí Gaelscoil).

Carmel Browne, a representative of the INTO Central Executive Committee said the gathering was a chance to focus on the marvellous contribution the retirees had made to their schools and communities over the past 35 to 40 years.

"I have no doubt their legacy will live long in the memory of all those privileged enough to have worked alongside them, as well as all the pupils who have benefited from their care and dedication," she commented.

The INTO retirement function at The Bounty in Athlone on Monday, November 14.

Geraldine McGrane, who had been the deputy principal of St Paul's NS, retired after 18 years there.

The school described her as "an inspiring, energetic and enthusiastic leader and friend" and someone who was "incredibly supportive of her colleagues".

"No task proved too difficult for Geraldine be it getting a sub, co-ordinating extracurricular timetables and the yard duty rosters, locating PM Readers that had miraculously disappeared, filling the dishwasher, changing the bell, encouraging good attendance, handing out attendance certs and medals to pupils. The list is endless," stated the school in a tribute to her.

Mary (Patty) Naughton retired from Castlesampson NS in Bealnamulla after 29 years at the school, and having spent the previous 11 years in Clonfert NS.

"She spent a 29-year career nurturing and developing our school into what it is today," stated a tribute from Castlesampson NS.

"The school has undergone two extensions under Patty's principalship and an impressive astroturf (pitch) was one of her many additions.

"As recently as this summer, the front and back of the school have undergone a revamp and new windows were installed. Although Patty is no longer working with us, we are still reaping the benefits of her hard work and dedication."

The Athlone/Moate INTO Committee: Elaine Kincaid, Helen O’Toole, Catherine Ryan, Dolores Killian, Arthur Geraghty, Eimear Cronally (chairperson), Carmel Browne (CEC Rep).

Joan Conway spent her entire career working at Cornafulla NS and, after years of dedicated service as a teacher, became principal of the school in 2007.

She oversaw the extension of the school in 2010 and the continued development of the school's grounds and amenities in the years since then.

"Joan led with great compassion, empathy and understanding. But most of all there was always fun. Joan can see humour and a positive in every situation," said Cornafulla NS in a tribute.

Heather McCullagh, a native of Cavan, spent time working in her home county and in Dublin, Longford, and Athlone Mixed NS, before joining Cloonakilla NS as a learning support teacher in 1992.

She remained in that role, as it changed and evolved, until her retirement last June.

Ms McCullagh was described by her school as someone who was very passionate about special education and who "worked tirelessly to ensure the needs of our SEN pupils were catered for".