Belfast Telegraph

Enniskillen man picked to head US girls school

By Claire McNeilly

A Northern Ireland man is now at the helm of a prestigious American all-girls private high school.

Jamie Collins (39), from Enniskillen, is the first male lay president of Notre Dame Academy (NDA) in Hingham, Massachusetts.

He has been a teacher and administrator at Catholic high schools for girls since emigrating to the USA 18 years ago.

His new appointment as an educator at an all-girl school is, in his opinion, ironic, given that his own academic background saw him attend only all-male schools.

In a recent interview, Mr Collins said his educational trajectory was down to a combination of "Divine Providence" and life sometimes happening "by default".

The Co Tyrone native was formerly principal of San Gabriel Mission High School in San Gabriel, California.

He got the job at NDA after lengthy interviews and in September he was installed by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur under a three-year-contract.

NDA is a Catholic college preparatory school with an enrolment of 550 girls in grades seven to 12.

The new president said he's more comfortable talking extemporaneously than from a written speech, and although he's an administrator, his first love is teaching.

Mr Collins admitted he returns to his home town of Enniskillen frequently to visit his family.

His own career path was rather unorthodox, having disliked school so much that he quit when he was 16.

Initially, he became a chef, then moved to Dublin and later to California with the intention of becoming a priest.

Although that didn't happen, Mr Collins graduated from St John's Seminary College in Camarillo, California.

A two-year masters and certification programme at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles then allowed him to extend a visa that was going to expire.

"I could see then that education was to be my vocation," he said.

"The irony wasn't lost on me that I'd found my passion for life in teaching. I have learned that we'll be directed by God if we pray over our plans."

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