The Principal of Carnlough Integrated Primary School is stepping down after more than two decades at the school.
Mrs Elaine Farrell arrived at the school as a teacher in 1993, and has spent the past 16-and-a-half years as a teaching Principal.
Over the years, she has taught a range of classes at the small rural school, which has only one other teacher, from P3 through to P7.
Originally from Glengormley, Mrs Farrell’s family emigrated to Auckland in New Zealand when she was 12 years old, and it was there that she began her teaching career.
“I always wanted to be a teacher and when I married I returned to Northern Ireland and raised my children,” she revealed.
“I ended up moving back into teaching as a substitute teacher around Larne before finding a permanent job in Carnlough.
“I couldn’t have chosen a better place as the parents, children and staff I have worked with over the years have been wonderful, and I’ve been doing two full-time jobs as a teaching Principal.”
The school currently has 33 pupils, and is expecting this to increase to 36 in the next academic year.
“There is just myself and Miss Mulholland teaching here” said Mrs Farrell.
“I think that it’s better for children in a small school as there is a family atmosphere and each child receives plenty of attention and support.”
During her time at Carnlough Primary, Mrs Farrell has seen many changes, perhaps the greatest of which was the school’s change in status to become a controlled integrated school in 2001.
“Most of our young people don’t have access to integrated education and we have seen the children playing together every day.
“I think it promotes tolerance, debate and discussion.
“Children learn that they come from different backgrounds but they are the same.
“We have seen the benefits of being a controlled, integrated school as it opens the school up to diversity.
“I would be supportive of it.”
Mrs Farrell will remain in her post until the end of August, and says she does not yet know who her successor will be.
Asked whether she has any advice for the next Headmaster or Headmistress, she replied: “I hope they enjoy it as much as I have.
“It’s hard work but it’s hugely rewarding.
“I will miss the children and teachers, the staff and parents and the people around Carnlough.
“It’s a great wee village.”
Paying tribute to Mrs Farrell, foundation stage teacher Miss Claire Mulholland, who has worked at the school for the past eight years, stated: “Mrs Farrell has been a great mentor and role model and I feel I have gained a lot of experience.
“I have been lucky to have the opportunity to work very closely with her as we are a small, close-knit team. I have experienced a lot in a short space of time as she has put her faith in me. I hope I can build upon the example that she has set.
“We are like a family at the school and we have a great compliment of staff including our classroom assistants, Mrs Aiken and Mrs Davies, caretaker Martin Davey and secretary Rosemary.
“On behalf of all of the staff at the school, I want to thank Mrs Farrell for her support over the years and for being a great mentor and we would like to wish her well for the future,” she concluded.
A farewell celebration for Mrs Farrell was held yesterday (Wednesday) at Glenlough Community Centre. Current pupils sang songs while past and present staff attended to wish Mrs Farrell well.