BIG READ: St Ailbe's - Ruaidhri's journey from pupil to school principal in Tipperary Town

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Martin Quinn

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Martin Quinn

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Tipperary Tipperary Tipperary

Ruaidhri Devitt, principal of St Ailbe’s Secondary School, Tipperary Town, who spoke to Martin Quinn recently about his transition from pupil to teacher to principal at the school

As a former student of St Ailbe’s School I was delighted to be asked back recently to speak to Transition Year students about a project that I am working on.

Being in the school gave me the opportunity to catch up with school principal, Ruaidhri Devitt, and to chat to him about his transition from student to teacher to principal.

It’s an interesting fact that Ruaidhri’s mother, Catherine, also previously taught in the school, a fact that I can fully testify to as I was one of her students for Geography and Irish. She came to the school initially as Catherine Ronayne, which changed to Devitt following her marriage to James (Jim).

Ruaidhri recalls often walking down from primary school to wait in St Ailbe’s for his mother and having the occasional chat with the then principal, Pat Moroney.

Fast forward a few years and Ruaidhri found himself in the school as a student and under the tutelage of an extremely talented bunch of teachers.

“I was lucky as a student to be in a school with so many excellent teachers who were willing to go the extra mile for their students. I am extremely proud to say that I am a former student of St Ailbe’s school and that I received an excellent education here.

“Teachers such as the late Michael Quirke would often work late into the evening to make sure the students got the best possible results in all areas of school life. Their dedication would definitely have impacted on my view of education and on the positive role that teachers can have on their students,” said Ruaidhri.

St Ailbe’s school is one of Tipperary ETB schools and this comes with many benefits as Tipperary ETB has always been very forward thinking and innovative in their approach to education.

Ruaidhri began teaching in St Ailbe’s in September 2002. He moved to St Anne’s (Tipperary) in 2006 and returned to St Ailbe’s as principal in 2015.

With his awareness of the strong history and tradition of excellence in the school, he was honoured to have been selected to lead the school forward into the next chapter.

“My aim was to continue the tradition of being a welcoming, open, innovative, and caring establishment, which were the hallmarks of the previous leaders, and to ensure that the needs of the children would always come first with me and with all of the staff.

“No student is placed on a pedestal, rather the emphasis is on attaining their potential, whatever that may be. I find it a great source of pleasure to see students progress to many different paths after completing Third Level, PLC or apprenticeship options. There is real recognition and value in seeing students progress in different ways and in different routes,” said Ruaidhri.

While I was in the school there was evidence of excellent adherence to Covid-19 regulations, with wearing of masks, plentiful stations of sanitisers and regular cleaning of desks and school furniture. Ruaidhri told me that he has been hugely impressed by the way the students have reacted to the Covid crisis.

“Students have been excellent with compliance and it shows that they understand the seriousness of the virus, and that they have a part to play and are willing to step up when required. We put in a huge amount of work over the summer in getting the school ready for the students return.

“However all of these changes would be worthless without students taking on personal responsibility, which I am proud to say they have done. Thankfully so far everything is working out really well but it is clear from national media reports there can be no place for complacency and we need to keep working hard in order to keep everybody safe,” he added.

Ruaidhri is married to Claire (nee O’Grady) and they have two children, Keira and Ryan.

He has a huge interest in all things related to health and fitness, and over the years has taken part in many endurance events including marathons, triathlons and an Ironman a few years ago.

I asked him as to what is his motivation behind taking part in these events: “I believe it’s important to have personal goals as well as work-related goals to keep a balance in life. I see first-hand the benefit of exercise on a person’s health, both physically and mentally, and I always encourage young people to be as active as possible.

“I am also interested in reading and listening to podcasts on many diverse topics including politics, science and all kinds of psychology,” added Ruaidhri.

As to the future, well Ruairdhi is extremely happy in St Ailbe’s and assuming he maintains good health he hopes to stay there for many years to come.

In conclusion we join with the Tipperary community in wishing him, his family and the school community every success into the future.