38 years dedication to teaching in Tydavnet parish were recognised when St Dympna’s N.S., Tydavnet held a celebratory function for Mrs Claire Slowey on Tuesday 18th June 2019. Claire Cassidy from Terrytole, Ballinode, arrived in Tydavnet School (where the community centre now sits) as a fresh faced graduate, and it’s amazing to think of the vast changes that she has seen during her long and dedicated career. Claire attended the function with her husband Paul, her adult children Conor, Niall and Emer, and her Dad Brian Cassidy (her Mum was unable to attend due to illness). Also present were existing and former staff members, as well as parents, friends, past pupils, and other members of the community. The Mass was celebrated by Rev Stephen  Joyce, and the music was supplied by the school choir under the direction of Marina Mohan.

The liturgy, the readings, the musical pieces were all beautifully put together, and symbols brought to the altar included chalk to symbolise all the years she taught, and how she embraced the developments in education, where chalk and blackboard were replaced by technology; a crucifix from her classroom epitomised her role in passing on the faith; a photo of the school cohort displayed how she touched and enriched the lives of so many individuals and families; a computer tablet was used to celebrate the ICT resources that Claire used and how she embraced the new ways of teaching; and a book of memories were presented as a collection of all the curricular and extra curricular things that Claire was involved in down the years.

Fr Joyce told of his “lightbulb moment” as he pondered on what to say on this day. He and Mrs Slowey had similar homelives, experiences of education, going to college, and going into teaching. He congratulated Claire on her retirement after 38 years – he has only another 24 years to go! He reflected on how many children she has taught, the influences she had, and the imprints and identity she created in the fabric of thousands of people. She brought teaching alive, the real model of a teacher was in her DNA. She embraced the ethos of “service” to class, staffroom, and community, and working with and for people. She had generosity in abundance – she gave everything with a full heart, everyday, and she created great children. She also had great sincerity to engage, listen and learn. He likened it to St Paul’s theme of “gratitude” from the second reading – using our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us, and holding on to what is good. He paid tribute to Claire and his lasting impression of her was smiling in the middle of “controlled chaos” in a classroom of sand and water and all the children happily flying round a busy and active learning experience.

Many further tributes were led by MC Acting Principal Emma Traynor in the school hall, and Claire was the recipient of presentations from the Board of Management; Parent’s Association, Acorn Montessori; Past and present pupils, and a very special cake made and decorated for the occasion by Eileen Roddy and family. A slideshow of images, and delightful musical performances from all the pupils made for a wonderful and memorable concert – a truly fitting tribute to a teacher who has often gone above and beyond – a wonderful mentor and friend, and someone who has clearly left a mark on the school. Afterwards refreshments were served by the parents association in the school and many people had a chance to chat with Claire and the former teachers in attendance. We thank Mrs Slowey for her dedication and wish her well in her retirement, and we hope that she enjoys great opportunities and great health in her future.