Monday 17 June 2019

St Leonard's NS bids farewell to Martin

Tributes are paid to the respected school principal

Martin Kennedy pictured with his family at the presentation evening and Mass in St Leonard’s to mark his retirement as principal of the school.
Martin Kennedy pictured with his family at the presentation evening and Mass in St Leonard’s to mark his retirement as principal of the school.
Martin Kennedy receiving a presentation from pupils Alisha Kelly Cahill and Emma Foley.
Martin Kennedy receiving a presentation from the parents council by Mary Fitzharris.

Brendan Keane

When Principal, Martin Kennedy, retired from St Leonard's National School at the end of the last school term it brought to an end a teaching career dating back to the end of the 1970s.

Mr Kennedy began his life as a teacher in St Colmcille's National School in Knocklyon, Dublin, in 1979. It was a great place for him to start as he received a lot of support from fellow-teachers and it was during his time in Dublin that he met his wife, Mairead.

However, Mr Kennedy is a true Wexford man and while he enjoyed his time in the capital he always intended returning to the Model County and this he did in September 1982, when he took on the role of Principal in Shielbaggan National School.

The contrast between the two schools could not have been more stark, however, in Sheilbaggan he had the benefit of working alongside Teenie Murphy, a teacher with whom he forged a great lasting friendship.

Whether a school has 200 pupils and multiple teachers or whether its a rural two-teacher school like Sheilbaggan, the principles of teaching remain the same and for Mr Kennedy it was always about the children.

They have always been at the forefront of every decision he has made during his career including when he moved to St Leonard's National School in September 1994.

The 24 happy years he spent working there is something he is immensely proud of. At a ceremony held to mark his retirement reference was made to the fact he often received freshly baked treats from Teenie Murphy's mother-in-law, Hannie Murphy, when he was in Sheilbaggan and that was something that continued when word reached the staff in St Leonard's. It wasn't long before tarts and treats were brought into the school much to Mr Kennedy's satisfaction.

It was a light-hearted moment on a night of celebration but it was also indicative of the high regard in which Mr Kennedy was held in both schools and within the wider communities they served.

Of his time in St Leonard's he said it was like being part of a family: 'I have been blessed and fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend this time here.'

He said that for him personally the word family means having people you can rely on who you can share problems and happy times with.

'It also means to have respect for each other and responsibility towards each other,' he said.

'The support, fun and friendship that they brought to me and our school is greatly valued,' he added, referring to the people he worked with in St Leonard's.

He said the school always benefited greatly from having excellent teaching staff - some of whom have sadly passed away.

Two years after Mr Kennedy arrived in St Leonard's Bridget Murphy joined the team as school Secretary.

For 22 years they worked together and formed a formidable team and he praised her for the amount of work she does behind the scenes.

The support from the various parish priests who served the parish during his time in the school is also something Mr Kennedy is very grateful for.

'They encouraged our faith formation and further developed our understanding of family,' he said.

'These priests truly supported our teachers and our children in a natural and caring way on their faith journey,' he added.

He praised the various Boards of Management members who helped ensure the school was always run in as efficient a manner as possible.

'These are great people who give their time freely for the betterment of our school,' he said.

Always one to look to the future and adopt a progressive stance Mr Kennedy oversaw a lot of development work take place in St Leonard's including the construction of a new staff room and computer room.

The school now provides Information Technology courses for teachers from all over the south east.

For Mr Kennedy, parents always played a pivotal role in the success of the school and he said the different Parents' Associations he worked down through the years always had the best interests of the school at heart.

'They were always there to support us in whatever way they could,' he said.

'School family could not function at its best without these voluntary people who give tirelessly of their time and energy,' he added.

When asked what the most important aspect of being a teacher is his answer was immediate and forthright.

'I always feel that the children are, and must be, central to everything that goes on in the school,' he said.

'They are what cements the school together just like a family,' he added.

He said his life was enriched during his time in St Leonard's and he is very appreciative of all the support he received during his career but also of the expressions of goodwill afforded him for his future in retirement.

In his speech at his he emphasised how important family was to him growing up and how he benefited from being born into a very close family unit himself.

He thanked his wife, Mairead, and their children, Martin, Tina, Mairead and Darragh for the support they gave him during his time as a teacher.

He was then presented with a Book of Memories, compiled and written by the pupils. He also received a canvas print with the fingerprints of the children and staff in the school.

New Ross Standard