In her almost life-long association with Muire Gan Smál Presentation Primary School in Castleisland, a just retired teacher has gone through three transformations.
As a pupil she was Mary Frances Woulfe. In 1982, as a newly qualified teacher, she became Miss Woulfe and later changed her name to Mrs. O’Shea.
“My retirement marks the end of a long association with the school and the Presentation Convent,” said Mary Frances as she spoke on the day of her retirement on Wednesday, June 28th.
Tears flowed freely from many of her young pupils and friends and it was testament to the use she made of the vocation she was given.
There is little doubt but there are some fine results of her influences scattered to the many corners of the world today from the generations that passed through her hands at the school.
“As a child I cycled to the school from my home in Cnoicín and as I was there on the opening day way back in 1966.
“My formative years were spent in a brand new primary school amongst the Presentation sisters. It was a very different school then,” Mary Frances recalled.
Lunch in the Halla
“We changed into our indoor shoes; we ate our lunch in the halla; competed in feis ceoil under Sr. Olivia and we knitted and sewed our way through the senior classes.
“Sr. Virgilius was principal at the time and her presence left a lasting impression on me. My earliest memory of her was giving food to those less well off and looking out for those who needed comfort.
“I was appointed here in 1982 and I thank the late Canon Michael Herlihy and the late Sr.Virgilius for giving me the opportunity and the privilege of spending a lifetime doing a job I have loved so much.
“I spent 22 years as ‘a real teacher’ in infants but my time in special education has been hugely rewarding for me.
Parents and Pupils
“I loved working with the children and everyday was a new challenge. I have made wonderful friends amongst the parents and pupils over the years and have a great camaraderie with all my former colleagues.
“I wish Principal Leona Twiss and her staff all the best for the future and with the development of the new Autistic Unit which is under construction at present,”
In paying tribute to her retiring teacher, Principal Leona Twiss said that Mary Frances has left a huge legacy to the school.
“Mary Frances had been a pupil of the school herself and two years after finishing teacher training college, she was appointed to the teaching staff.
“She taught here in Muire Gan Smál Presentation Primary for 35 years and brought her three children, Orla, Fergal and Ronan to the school with her.
“She will be sorely missed and this was evident from the outpouring of good wishes in her final days of service.”
Ms. Twiss told the large crowd assembled at Mary Frances’ retirement mass that she was all about the children and she delivered a ‘child-centred’ curriculum before that phrase ever became popular.
“Mary Frances has lots of plans for her retirement including gardening and travelling with her husband Francis and we wish them health and happiness,” the principal concluded.
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