THE Principal of the Belfast Model School for Girls, Mr John Alexander Graham, has been awarded an OBE in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours, for services to Education in Northern Ireland.
Mr Graham is a Newtownabbey man through and through. He was born and brought up in Abbots Cross and now lives in Jordanstown.
He has been teaching since 1974, starting out at Dunlambert School on the Shore Road in 1974 and continuing to teach there when it became Castle High School. He was then Vice Principal at Deramore School for a year before moving to Dromore High School where he was Vice Principal for eight years.
Mr Graham has been Principal of the Girls Model School at Dunowen Gardens, Belfast, for the past 11 years and he says he loves the job.
“We are the only all girls’ non grammar school in the area and two years ago our new school building opened as a community school, which means we are open from 7am in the morning to 10pm at night five days a week,” he told the Times.
“The Girls Model is a great place to work, and the 11 years I have spent at the school have gone by very fast, too fast if anything.”
Mr Graham said he was “shocked but delighted” to hear he was to receive the OBE.
“When I walked in the door and saw the letter lying there, my immediate thought was that it was a bill, so of course I was doubly pleased when I opened it and saw what it actually was! Mind you, it was very difficult keeping the news secret for the past six weeks or so,” he told the Times.
“The OBE is a lovely recognition and I’m sure that now that the word is out, there will be a lot of banter about it at school, but I am very happy and proud about it. It is a great pleasure to be recognised for one’s work, not just for myself but also for the whole school, because we’ve been working very hard with the community. Although I am the one to have received this honour, I am pleased for the entire team at Girls Model because our work is most definitely a team effort.”
Mr Graham said being awarded the OBE was especially delightful as it meant that he will receive the same honour as his colleague and close counterpart within the teaching profession, the Principal of Boys Model School.
“The Principal of Boys Model, Mr Jim Keith, who is from Rathcoole received the OBE seven or eight years ago. We are both past pupils of Abbots Cross Primary School, so it is nice that two former pupils of that school and the current Principals of the Boys Model and the Girls Model schools have both been acknowledged in the Queen’s Honours Lists!”
Mr Graham said he and his wife Lyn, a visitor guide at the Ulster Museum, were now looking forward to going to Buckingham Palace where he would be presented with the award.
“Lyn was a bit sceptical at first when I told her I’d been chosen to receive the OBE, I don’t think she believed me! But she is very pleased about it now. We have two children, Ben and Laura, who are both at university, and they may well come along with us too,” he said.