Over her 39 years teaching at Glenbeigh National School, Mary Jo Curran was never slow to remind her students how lucky they were to live in a place as naturally beautiful as Glenbeigh.
But in talking to her at the end of her near-40-year career, it’s clear that the Beaufort woman considered herself just as lucky to have taught there since September 1983.
And it’ll be no surprise to hear that one of the county’s most-decorated footballers was quick to emphasise the value of extra-curricular activities, not least the fine work of Cumann na mBunscol, as she stepped away from teaching.
“I started in Glenbeigh, straight out of college in September 1983, and I think I was the luckiest student in the whole of Mary I that year,” she told The Kerryman. “I just feel so grateful to everyone in the school from start to finish – staff, parents, pupils, everyone.
“I was 19 when I did my interview and the bare 20 starting off. It never crossed my mind to apply for a job elsewhere afterwards because I was so happy here. Seán McGillicuddy, the principal at the time, and Fr Brian Kelly took a chance on me, a student straight out of college, and I’ve enjoyed every day since. I’ve made great friends in Glenbeigh. Living in Beaufort and working in Glenbeigh, it’s a good combination!
“I remember every pupil who was in my first class, and a good few of those were present. I definitely will miss it, but life goes on, and the young teachers are fantastic, they bring such energy to the job.”
On Cumann na mBunscol, she was similarly enthusiastic.
“They do tremendous work every year. The teachers around the county in the primary schools promoting it, I don’t know do people realise how important they are for GAA,” she said, reserving no little praise for the Cumann’s running of competitions for schools of varying sizes, getting young people involved in sport, and giving a platform to girls as well as boys.
“For some children, it might be their first introduction to playing the sports. To wear the school jersey for the first time, the pupils can’t wait to do it, whether it’s boys’ football, girls’ football, hurling, camogie.
“All sport is good for children. The children learn so many values from being on a team, whether it’s defeats and how to handle them, or they get to know students from the other schools before they go to secondary. And it’s not just sport, it’s all the extra-curricular, it’s not just about the academic.”
Her principal, Séamus McMahon, said last Friday’s farewell gathering made clear the high regard the community has for Mary Jo.
“It has a huge event, with gifts for Mary Jo from all sectors of the school community, and we all saw the love the community has for her, and the students were central to the day’s events,” he told The Kerryman.
“We are so grateful to her, and she has made an immeasurable contribution over the past 39 years.”