Principal of Straid Primary School, Mrs Florence Mairs, has said a fond farewell on her retirement after 15 years in the post.
Mrs Mairs, who began teaching 42 years ago, worked at Ballysillan and Thompson Primary Schools before coming to Straid in 1999.
She told the Times that she considers herself lucky to have worked in a career she loved for over four decades. She revealed: “I always wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was five years old. I used to take the other children off the street and sit them on our step-they were the class, and I was always the teacher!”
Originally from Whitewell, Mrs Mairs now lives outside Ballyclare. She says that the primary school, which has 81 pupils, is an integral part of the small village community.
She continued: “The most important factor in any school is the knowledge, skills and personality of the teachers and non-teaching staff, who are the most valuable and amazing resources in a school.
At Straid I have been very, very blessed to work with exceptional teachers and staff.
“I have worked with Mrs Blair, my senior teacher, throughout my time at Straid. We have shared a vision of where we wanted to take Straid over the years and all of the staff have been very professional, dedicated and caring. We are a small school with excellent results and we are at the forefront in all areas-ICT, STEM and literary subjects, the Ulster schools competition. ”
Over the course of her teaching career, Mrs Mairs says that the biggest change she has noticed is in the area of multimedia. However, she believes that traditional values are still integral to children’s development. She explained: “Technology has moved at a fierce rate. When I started teaching computers filled whole rooms and buildings and now children are carrying them along in the palm of their hand. But young people still need to be able to communicate face-to-face.
“Human nature has not changed and children have not changed-they still need to feel valued. The most important thing that we can give children is self confidence, self esteem and caring for others. The children leave my school literate, numerate and articulate and ready to become confident young people who can contribute to society.”
Such is the bond between children and teachers that the relationship continues long after pupils leave. Mrs Mairs revealed: “We try to foster a link for life. Pupils come back to our school for work experience and one of our teachers, Mrs Blair, is a past pupil herself, which is lovely.”
The strength of the bond with past pupils was evident during Mrs Mairs’ retirement evening on June 24, when a number of past pupils joined with current pupils and teachers in celebration of her career.
A delighted Mrs Mairs said: “It was amazing. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I cried from beginning to end, it was such a beautiful evening. A lot of preparation went into it.”
Mrs Mairs’ final day as principal was June 27, and she is now planning a new adventure as she prepares to travel to Canada to scale the Rockies with her family this summer.
She laughed: “My husband Bernard and four children have been so supportive of me over the years. I am looking forward to climbing the Rockies-or at least driving through them!”