‘It’s special...I think of all the little feet that have walked the corridors’
The new principal of St. Eugene’s, Ms. Teresa Duggan, has said she’s humbled to have been given the honour of educating the latest generation of young minds at the ‘Wee Nuns’.
“When I came in here on my first morning as principal and I met all the children in the assembly hall I thought of all the little feet that have travelled on the corridors and on the stairs here at St. Eugene’s.
“I thought of all the adult feet as well, all the staff and the parents, the many people who have worked here and the generations of families that St. Eugene’s have educated here in Derry,
“Just how privileged and honoured and humbled I am to have become principal of St. Eugene’s which I would term the ‘Cathedral School’.”
It just three weeks since Ms. Duggan took up her role in the historic Francis Street school which has been a centre of Catholic education in Derry since the 1800s.
Prior to her appointment she had worked for 20 years at St. Mary’s, Killyclogher, in Omagh. Before that she had taught at St. Kevin’s on the Falls Road.
When the chance to lead St. Eugene’s on the next stage of its educational journey presented itself, however, the opportunity was too good to turn down.
And Ms. Duggan, a native of Aghyaran, is not the first pastoral leader from that neck of the woods to have formed a close association with Derry.
St. Eugene himself founded his monastery at Ardstraw before becoming the patron of the Diocese, of the Cathedral and of the school, of course.
“I applied for St. Eugene’s, knowing it was the ‘Cathedral School’. It’s a very special place, the centre of the Derry Dioscese.
“I just thought, the ‘Cathedral School’...wouldn’t it be lovely, all the years that are here in education?” she said.
Since arriving she has been overwhelmed by the warm Derry welcome she has received from the children, staff, parents and the clergy of the parish.
“I was speaking to the children about all of that history and of St. Eugene’s being the ‘Cathedral School’ and one wee girl piped up and said, ‘Yes miss, and we’re the cathedral kids!’
“It was just a lovely moment and a lovely warm introduction to the school. I’m getting to know everybody.
“I want to pay tribute to the Board of Governors who have entrusted me with this role of leading the school. I would also like to thank the priests of our parish, Fr. Paul Farren and Fr. Patrick Lagan, for their warm welcome and to Bishop Dónal McKeown. I’ve got a great warm welcome here. It really is a privilege and an honour.
“The parents are great. There’s a great vibe and buzz. The children are so well mannered and respectful. I have no doubt we will achieve great things together.”
Ms. Duggan has amassed almost 25 years of teaching and managerial experience since graduating from St. Mary’s in Belfast in 1995.
She has a particular interest in special educational needs and completed a Masters in Education in the area.
During her time at St. Mary’s in Killyclogher she was the school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) from 2001. It is something she is clearly passionate about.
“I do feel every child has a special need. Every child is special and unique. Their own set of needs is special like they are themselves. But what’s good for a child with additional needs is good for every child.
“I really wanted to make sure that the curriculum for a child who found it more challenging or had wee worries or concerns about their ability or capability, that they had a positive experience and that they could achieve the best they could be.”
She said helping children living with autism, ADHD, behavioural issues, learning difficulties, or medical conditions affecting learning, had been extremely rewarding.
“That gave me great job satisfaction. I felt I was making a difference, impacting lives and making things better,” she said.
Ms. Duggan is certainly looking forward to what is a new chapter for both her and St. Eugene’s.
“In leading any school you are leading from the heart. When you care you will share and that’s so important.
“At St. Eugene’s people are more than welcome to come along and visit. Any prospective parents. Our motto is it’s ‘our school, your child, their success.”