Inspirational principal and rugby coach Charlie McAleese to retire
Inspirational school principal and rugby coach, Charlie McAleese, who has been teaching for 40 years, is to retire.
As principal of Killicomaine Junior High School, Charlie has extolled the ethos of mental and physical health as well as academia throughout his teaching career.
He spoke about his long and varied life and how he will miss the staff and pupils at Killicomaine JHS.
“I was born in Coleraine where I attended the Irish Society Primary School before transferring to the DH Christie Memorial Primary School on its opening in 1967,” said Mr McAleese.
“With my father being transferred to a new post in Londonderry, I moved for my P7 year to Ebrington Primary School and from there to Foyle College, where I spent three years and was introduced to rugby by ‘Big Stan Huey’ – later to become a line out code used at many levels of the game in Ulster!
“I moved back to Coleraine at the start of my GCE course, yes there is no S missing there! Four years later I moved on to Stranmillis College completing a B.Ed in Physical Education and Maths.
“My first teaching post was at Lisnagarvey High School from 1980–1984. The next twenty years were spent at Dromore High School where I was Head of Physical Education and Teacher in Charge of rugby. These were most enjoyable and fulfilling years, coinciding with the birth of my son Harry in 1988 and my daughter Leslie in 1989.
“In 2004 I was appointed Vice-Principal in Killicomaine. My wife, Lorraine, had been teaching here for a few years and was enjoying the experience and I had been at Killicomaine on teaching practice in 1979,
“That, and my many visits to the school with sports teams, had made an impression on me. I was always impressed by the demeanour of the pupils, the school atmosphere, setting and indeed, the welcome afforded to visitors by all at the school.
“Having played rugby at Portadown RFC from 1980–83 I already had many connections in the town and indeed in the school. Playing and coaching rugby was to co-exist with most of my career in teaching.
“Playing rugby came to an abrupt halt when I suffered a knee ligament injury in a ‘Nutty Krust’ final in 1985 playing for Lisburn against Banbridge at Chambers Park.
“I was fortunate that both teaching and coaching could ‘co-exist’ from 1984–2015 as it is true to say I enjoyed both in equal measure,” said Mr McAleese.
“Coaching rugby at Dromore High School led to opportunities to coach at every level of the game in Ulster.
“I particularly enjoyed my three years coaching Ireland U19s and World Cups in Dubai and Belfast, with many of these players progressing to play for Ireland and British Lions Test teams.
“My last five years in coaching were spent with Ballynahinch in All-Ireland League Division One, and these too were most enjoyable years.
“I was fortunate that I was facilitated in combining my rugby and teaching careers by both my understanding wife and the Principals and Governors at both Dromore and Killicomaine schools,” he said.
“I was appointed Principal of Killicomaine in 2017 following the retirement of Mr Hugh McCarthy. Hugh and I enjoyed an excellent working relationship due to the fact we were reasonably ‘like minded’ on many issues and when we were not, we were ‘straight-talking’!” he said.
“My goodness, teaching has changed somewhat in the past 40 years. The greatest challenge has been the adaptation required to respond to an ever changing society in which expectation continues to change, where the school is charged with an ever increasing responsibility for the health, welfare, nutrition and education of the young person.
“The past ten months has been different, strange and challenging for all of us but there have been positives for all of us too,” said Mr McAleese..
“We have all gone through a reappraisal of the hierarchy of importance, of the different facets of our life. Hopefully this reappraisal will guide us all in our priorities, perspectives and behaviours beyond the pandemic.
“Similarly in schools, we have had to see clearly and prioritise that which is important. Health and Safety, the preservation of staff employment, maintaining as much normality as possible and finally, educating the young person.
“I am proud of the efforts of all the staff and the support of our parents over the past ten months. Without doubt the pupils have not enjoyed the full range of experiences that we normally offer and they have had restrictions on their sociability in school. Nonetheless, they and their teachers continue to combine to ensure that the academic, skills or experience deficit is minimal.
“With their versatility, adaptability and resilience, our young people will move through this phase and return to normal working and social practices in the very near future.
“As for the future, it is sure to be very different. Forty years of the 6.30am alarm call and off to work, something that I am fortunate to have always enjoyed. Teaching P.E, coaching rugby, managing the school, celebrating the fabulous achievements of our pupils at Prize Night, Saturday morning hockey and rugby, and most of all the people I encountered every day.
“The pupils, staff, parents and visitors to the school is what I will miss most, together with the wide variety of problems, successes, accidents, initiatives, development plans, criticisms, celebrations, and all the other day-to-day occurrences,” said Mr McAleese.
“I am certain, however, that it is the right time to move on. Without the constraint of full-time work, Lorraine and I can hopefully enjoy the next chapter and we are looking forward to that. I would like to thank all the past and present staff, pupils and parents for their support of over the past sixteen years.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Killicomaine and look forward to seeing the school go from strength to strength in the years ahead.”
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