Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

How perfect principal could teach us all an inspiring lesson

True devotion: Retiring teacher Geraldine Regan

I hope you don't mind indulging me today in letting me pay tribute to a woman who many of you don't know but who has moulded the minds of thousands of young people, including mine, over a long teaching career which comes to an end this week.

This teacher's name is Geraldine Regan, she has been at the front of a classroom for 45 years and she won't thank me for telling you that she is 65 (almost 66).

Mrs Regan, as she is still known to many of those she has taught over the decades, isn't keen on the thought of retirement.

Instead of dreaming of exotic holidays and what to do with all that free time after such long service, she is truly heartbroken to be leaving her school and brims with tears at every mention of it. If she could stay on for another 45 years, I suspect she would.

I tried to interview Mrs Regan for the purposes of this column but she was a reluctant subject.

I did, however, manage to get it out of her that she taught for one year in her native Belfast around 1969 before Miss Agnew, as she was then, married a handsome Maghera man (with her young class all guests at the wedding) and moved to the country.

In those days, teachers in Catholic schools were recruited by getting a knock on the door from the parish priest and that was how she ended up in a small two-teacher school at the foot of Glenshane mountain.

On her very first day a tragic event saw her unexpectedly have to take over as acting principal for a year, when she was just in her early 20s.

She then moved to Glenview Primary in Maghera in 1972 (where she later taught me) before moving to St Columba's Primary School, Straw, in 1991 where she has been the teaching principal ever since. Mrs Regan believes a good school is one which is happy and fulfilling to teach in, which works to draw out the strengths of every single child and which is firmly at the centre of its community.

Despite the countless youngsters who have passed through her care, she remembers every one.

She talks about her children, never her pupils. If Mrs Regan has ever had a sick day, no-one can remember it. She has never, not once, ever been heard complaining about work or of feeling stressed by a very challenging job.

When asked what has made her proud, it's the fact that she has been in charge of one of the highest schools in Northern Ireland for 23 years, but has only ever had to close on one single day because of winter weather.

So what has been the secret to her longevity and remarkable energy? "My whole career has been a vocation," she says. "There honestly has not been one single day that I hated the thought of going to work."

And there aren't many who can say that.

As a primary four pupil, Mrs Regan taught me long division, cross-country running, all about the solar system, poetry I still remember, and much more.

She taught me the value of hard work and in bringing that strong sense of vocation to whatever it is you do. She is the best teacher I ever had and I wouldn't be doing what I love today without her support and guidance.

Mrs Regan also happens to be my mother, so I hope you can forgive me for being unashamedly proud in writing about her today. On behalf of all her children (the three she brought into this world and thousands more) I would like to say thank you. Happy retirement, mammy!

Young lovers beware Corrie kiss of death

Corrie love birds rejoice. The Rovers Return has been granted a marriage licence, meaning that betrothed couples will soon be able to get hitched between the ale pumps.

Coronation Street bosses came up with the novel way of using their old set in Manchester after production moved to a spanking new set in Salford.

But who would feel confident enough to host a wedding among the cobblestones, given the Street's history of marital trouble and strife?

Let's hope those doing so have a marriage experience more like the Duckworths and less like the Barlows or Gail Tilsley-Platt-Hillman-McIntyre.

Everybody knows ... not much about Pat

Are you familiar with a man called Patrick Clifton?

Neither was I until I spent a rainy afternoon at the cinema to discover he's better known as none other than Postman Pat.

Postman Pat: The Movie was full of revelations.

He's married with one son, is 33 years of age, 11 stone and sings just like Ronan Keating.

It's not all change, you'll be glad to hear. He's still got a black and white cat, rises early in the morning, and just as day is dawning, Pat picks up the postbags in his van. Altogether now ... sing the rest.

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