Maura Dineen, principal of Moynalvey NS on the day of her retirement. PHOTOS: David Mullen

‘Retiring was a hard decision to make but I’m looking forward to the next chapter’

The Moynalvey community came out in force on the Friday before Christmas to bid farewell to local school principal Maura Dineen who finished her last day teaching in Moynalvey NS as the children broke up for the Christmas holidays.

Maura, a native of Carraroe in Co Galway has taught for almost 20 years in Moynalvey, first as a teacher before taking on the role of teaching principal three years ago.

She has decided that the time is right for her to take early retirement and while she says she will miss the school hugely, she feels it is the right decision for her and she is looking forward to the next chapter in her life.

Maura studied teaching in Mary Immaculate in Limerick and spent a "good chunk" of her teaching career in Dublin before taking up a teaching post in Moynalvey NS in 2004.

"We moved to Trim with two young tots- a six-week-old baby and a three-year-old. I was going to take a career break. I figured I was not going to commute between Trim and Dublin for a while but then I got bored at home and started looking for teaching jobs," recalled Maura.

She applied for the job in Moynalvey NS, taking up the post in February 2004 and has been there ever since.

Maura has taught various classes in the school over the years and took the principal role in 2019. As a smaller school, she also teaches along with being principal and was in learning support this year.

She recalled that making the move to Moynalvey from a Dublin school was a "bit of a culture shock" at the time.

"I had been teaching in Coolock and I always remember looking out the window in Moynalvey in the class I was in and beautiful horses were being trotted down the road. In Coolock you were more likely to see a piebald pony. We couldn't even really see out the windows properly as they had special perspex style windows that couldn't be broken.

"That time the hunt used to come through here quite a bit. It was a spectacular sight, so it was a very different dynamic".

Maura laughed that she "learnt an awful lot about tractors" in the beginning.

"I wouldn't have been very up to date. I come from Connemara where tractors and trees wouldn't be necessarily be a big thing. The obsession with tractors and farming and cattle and horses, that was different.

"Children though in all honesty are no different. They behave the same. It is just their environment is different."

"It was a more organic style of teaching and structures- out in the countryside, loads of room, football was a big thing. I had come from a school where they weren't allowed to run in the yard to children running around and kicking ball and what not."

Maura said the staff were all lovely and they had some great times there. In 2019, Maura became principal and said it was bit of a transition to go from being a colleague to being principal and becoming "the boss" and that brings its own dynamic.

She also believes the idea of a teaching principal should be done away with.

"The idea of a teaching principal should be got rid of and you should be an admin principal and that is it," said Maura.

"It doesn't matter whether your school is a two-teacher school or 15-teacher school, you still have to do the same work. You still have to do the same admin, you still have to do the same paperwork. You really have to have an appetite for it and I have come to a stage in my life where I really don't have an appetite for it anymore.

There are now 144 children enrolled in Moynalvey NS with six class teachers and two learning support teachers. The school has grown from when Maura started first, when there were four teachers.

"I'm heading out of the gap a little bit earlier for many reasons. It was a hard decision to make to retire but at the same time it was an easy one and it's a decision I am delighted I have made.

"I felt the time was right to finish my teaching career. I have taught for 30 years and want to take some time to pursue other interests and hobbies and have a bit of time for myself."

Maura said she is looking forward to getting back into her painting and to doing some travelling with her husband Michael and would also like to do some voluntary work.

Her children are now grown up with son James an Air Corps pilot, while daughter Róisín is in her third year studying Criminology and Law in Maynooth.

Looking back over her time in Moynalvey, Maura said one of the highlights was when the school and the football club put on the 'Oskars' and she got involved.

"It was a great experience. It was brilliant. It showed me what a strong community Moynalvey has.

She recalled that she relucantly agreed to take part thinking she would just help out but and ended up taking on a lead role in Sister Act as Whoopi Goldberg's character.

"I loved every minute of it," said Maura joking she may pursue an acting career yet.

Talking to the Meath Chronicle just before her last day Maura said she would be "emotional and sad" but has been working on the process of letting go.

"I know I am going to be emotional but I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life. I still have a lot to give and I am looking at avenues where I can still give to education as well as pursuing my hobbies."