When the bell sounds to mark the end of the summer term in Ballyclare High School, it will also herald the end of an era, with the retirement of Mrs Jennifer Jenkins MBE.
Jen, senior executive officer at Ballyclare High School, is one of life’s special people.
Working at the school since the age of 16, when she started as an office junior, she has touched the lives of quite literally thousands of people in the local community and beyond.
Jen embodies the school motto ‘industria et probitate’ (‘hard work and decency’) in her daily interaction with pupils, staff, parents, visitors, colleagues and friends.
Her influence permeates all aspects of school life, far beyond the role specified in her job description.
While attentive to the changing expectations of the wider community which the school serves, Jen, the school stated, has always remained mindful of the importance of upholding the traditions on which it was founded and which have been sustained for over 100 years.
She has always wanted the school to act with care and concern and for those in authority whom she served to show understanding and compassion to those who needed them.
Former pupils pay fulsome tribute to Jen’s profound influence on their lives. Examples include pupils with poor attendance recalling her early morning phone calls to make sure they get to school on time and previously disaffected children who have fond memories of Jen taking time to explain to them why rules and regulations are necessary to ensure that order and respect are upheld.
Many whose experience of school life coincided with challenging circumstances in their personal lives, the school added, attest to Jen’s limitless kindness and immeasurable compassion, often expressed in the smallest but most uplifting of ways.
The current principal, Dr Michelle Rainey, echoes the sentiments of the three previous headmasters under whom Jen served, Mr Cecil Millar, Mr Robert Fitzpatrick and Mr David Knox, when she says: “I just don’t know how she does all she does, continuously giving, ever positive. Her behaviour epitomises all that is rich and good and the pastoral support she provides for us all, above all else, is priceless.
“Her modesty and patience is humbling. School is like a big family and Jen is just adored by our pupils and staff.”