THE new principal of Derryhale Primary School says that she is “really excited” to take up the role.
Mrs Kelly Gardiner will take up the position in January, taking over from Mrs Joan McMenemy who is retiring.
And she isn't coming alone. Her son, Archie, will also be coming along with her to start in P3. The first day back at school after Christmas is going to be a very big day in the Gardiner household!
Mrs Gardiner, 35, originally hails from Cookstown and attended the town's High School, before going on to do a BEd Primary Education degree at Stranmillis University College. She began her teaching career in Glengormley, teaching Key Stage 2 pupils.
She married her husband Drew - “he's a Portadown College boy,” Mrs Gardiner pointed out – and moved to Scotland, where she was working.
She said, “I did six years over here before we moved and had a four year stint and a couple of babies in Scotland!
“Once we had our children we decided that we wanted to settle back home, so I started applying for posts and got accepted by Markethill Primary School, which is where I'm at at the moment. I teach Primary 1 and 2 now.
“Through all my roles I've held senior leadership team roles, so I've been co-ordinating literacy, ICT and PE would have been my forte.
“I did my Masters for leadership and management in education. That was a three year course and I did that through Queen's.”
She joins the school at a time when education is facing a lot of challenges, not least from the problems caused by COVID-19.
“In my role in Markethill I'm the ICT co-ordinator,” she said.
“From March to now has been a massive learning curve because I have been facilitating the teaching and learning online at our school.
“I think that's something that's so important and that we need to uphold in the current situation because with children being off, and with isolation and so on, it's very important that we can reach parents quickly. Hopefully those ICT skills will hold me in good stead and I hope to bring those to Derryhale.”
COVID has also meant that Mrs Gardiner's appointment had been a “long process” but that she can't wait to get started.
And the transition has been made even easier thanks to the assistance of the outgoing principal.
“Mrs McMenemy has been great!” said Mrs Gardiner.
“We have already started the handover process and she has just been an absolute inspiration. Hearing that she has been in the school for 30 years really sets my mind at ease and I can just tell that there is a great community spirit at Derryhale and I look forward to becoming part of that.”
Mrs Gardiner has been welcomed into her role by the Chairman of the school's Board of Governors, Alderman Gareth Wilson.
He said, “The Board and wider school management is delighted that the appointment process was able to be completed despite the COVID-19 challenges and we have secured a very capable and experienced Principal.
“The Governors and school staff wish Mrs Gardiner every success as she prepares to take over this role and I know that she will find a very warm and welcoming environment in Derryhale.”
He added, “Mrs McMenemy has been a very important part of Derryhale Primary School for many, many years and her contribution to the life of the school and her dedication and commitment to hundreds of pupils over the years is unquantifiable.
“I wish Joan well as she prepares to bring her wonderful time at Derryhale to a close and I pay a special tribute to her for her management of the school during what have been very difficult times in our Province with COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions and challenges this brought.”