Martine Mulhern has been an educator for the last 30 years, but her passion for her job, and the students that go through the doors of the school she works has never faded.
She spent her first 24 years working in St Mary’s College, first as a teacher, form teacher, head of year before working her way up to the position of vice-principal.
A vacancy arose for the principal’s role at St Cecilia’s College six years ago, and Mrs Mulhern embraced it.
“I haven’t looked back. I’ve loved every minute of the time I’ve spent here in St. Cecilia’s and continue to do so,” she said.
Mrs Mulhern and her team at St. Cecilia’s were recently honoured for their hard work at the Investors in People Awards in London, with the school taking the Excellence in Leadership and Management award, and Mrs Mulhern being awarded Leader of the year.
“Everyone at St Cecilia’s a leader in their own right.
“Our children, prefects, junior leadership team, senior leadership team, heads of year, heads of department, vice-principals, everyone has a leadership role in the school.
“The awards acknowledged that we were doing things in the right way.
“It’s the hard work of every single person in the school.
“If you have everybody performing at that level and working at that level whether they are pupil or adult in the school, it’s easy to be leader of the year,” she said.
Mrs Mulhern and vice-principal Mr Ward Devine travelled to the glamorous ceremony in London on November 23, where Investors In People organisations from across the globe gathered to celebrate the success of the Investors In People community in 2017.
St Cecilia’s was nominated in three categories, and Mrs Mulhern said they were one of only a few organisations nominated in more than one category.
“There are 14,000 Investors In People organisations in 75 countries. There were 16 major awards up for grabs, and we were finalists in three of those categories.
“It was incredible to be a finalist,” she said.
After a quick change at their hotel, Mrs Mulhern and Mr Ward battled their way through rush hour traffic in London to make it to the awards on time, and in true Derry fashion, she almost immediately heard her name being called by a past pupil.
“I hear Mrs Mulhern! It was a past pupil who is now a project manager with Graham Construction. She was with them on the evening as they had been nominated as well.
“St Cecilia’s girls get absolutely everywhere, fair play to them,” she said.
Although she has only been in the role for six years, Mrs Mulhern said she feels like she has “actually never been anywhere else.”
“It sounds ridiculous but that’s just the way I feel. You just become completely immersed in the school.
“I have the most amazing staff, the most amazing young people, and their families are so supportive.
“Our community is so proud to have St Cecilia’s in the community, and I want our school always to represent the best of this community, Creggan, the Bogside and the Brandywell.
“It really highlights all the positivity and the fantastic families and young people that we have in this community.
“I take great responsibility, I feel responsible for making sure that everyone out there knows what a fantastic place this is to live in, to work in and to teach in,” she said.
Mrs Mulhern is a principal who loves her job and has nothing but praise for the young women who come through the doors of St Cecilia’s.
“I have never lost that love of the young people. I love young people, I’m most comfortable with young people,” she says.
“They bring great, great joy every single day to me and all the other adults in this school.
“Their sense of humour, their banter, their naivety.
“Sometimes they make good choices, sometimes they make bad choices, but watching them grow through it, watching a sixth year who has had a difficult or challenging time throughout school, leaving with good A-Levels to go on to University, you’ve watched her grow into this mature young woman and you’re proud of her.
“I have generations of women that I am just so, so proud of.
“Thinking that you played the tiniest part in their development, but keeping them on the right road.
“We’re so privileged to be educators in this school, and to have any influence on a young person, it’s just an amazing privilege to have. We have it every single day, I love my job.
“I think our young people are amazing, and I think they get a bad press at times, and yet so many of them do so many wonderful things,” she added.
Even spending one hour in St Cecilia’s, it’s evident that Mrs Mulhern and her staff have an excellent rapport with the students.
She said that the warmth felt in the school is often commented on.
“People talk about the warmth in this school. I am their school mammy, I genuinely care about every single child in this school.
“If you do that, you’ll never go wrong. As a mammy, sometimes I’ll get it wrong, but sometimes you have to scowl because someone has done something wrong, but if you always see them as your child, you’ll never go too far wrong.
“I’m so blessed that the staff in this school, that is the way they see the children for the time they’re with us.
“During that time they are that teacher’s child and they genuinely look after them and care for them.
“No matter what they do and go on to other things, they still remain a member of the St. Cecilia’s family, and you can get that and feel that when you meet past pupils.
“A lot I don’t know, but they have adopted me because I’m the principal.
“Past pupils and staff have embraced me as part of the fam ily as if I’ve always been here.”