Just a few more months of school and it’ll be plain sailing into retirement for principal and keen yachtsman Martin Coyle.
The principal of St Patrick’s Primary School, Pennyburn has announced he is to step down this August after 19 years in the job. Having chalked up 38 years in the teaching profession, he’s experienced massive changes in education and the way it’s delivered but admits that he’ll miss school life and its challenges. Not only has he oversaw the education of thousands of pupils during his tenure at the helm of St Patrick’s he has also presided over the transformation of the school itself. The opening of the new St Patrick’s PS, which saw the amalgamation of St Patrick’s Boys, St Patrick’s Girls and St Patrick’s Infants schools in 2004 - 50 years after the schools first opened their doors - remains the key high point in Mr Coyle’s career.
“I’m very proud of the new school, its opening was the main highlight for me,” he said. At that stage education had come a long way since he himself first took to his books at Long Tower Boys PS and later at St Columb’s College, followed by teacher training at De La Salle College in Manchester. The transformation in the day to day work of a teacher has continued unabated and Mr Coyle believes adapting to constant change has become part and parcel of working in education these days.
“You would find it difficult to find a piece of chalk in the building these days - there are no blackboards, no dusters. It’s all digital and electronic . . the pupils have access to computers in the classroom as well as having a computer suite,” he explained.
He admitted that the gathering pace of change is something he “won’t miss at all”. “The only thing constant in education at the moment is that it’s constantly changing and that can be very stressful for any teachers or principals,” he added.
But Mr Coyle has no regrets. Ever since he was a schoolboy himself, he wanted to stay at school. “Since I was a teenager I wanted to be a teacher. I was always dedicated to education and the wellbeing of children.”
He was keen to stress that the “highly professional” team at St Patrick’s has ensured that the schoolkids are given the very best of starts in terms of education. “They are highly professional people and highly dedicated, and I mean everyone - the teachers, clerical staff, supervisors, caretakers, caterers and of course the Board of Governors which has been very supportive over the years.”
But when the final bell rings on Mr Coyle’s career, he plans to enjoy a raft of activities in his free time. The family man is also keen to spend some more time with his wife Marian, daughter Áine and sons Brendan and Johnny, when he closes the current chapter in his life.
“I have lots of interests outside work and I dare say I’ll catch up on many of them.”
Top of his hobby list are sailing and strumming out a few numbers on his guitar. In fact he is currently on the receiving end of some education, having taken up classical guitar lessons.
As for sailing, he can often be found competing on his yacht in Lough Swilly during the racing season and he is keen to get plenty of practice in after his retirement on August 31.