An end of an era for principal and teacher at St Mary’s College

By Seymour Telegraph

Peter Kelly

The curtain is about to be drawn on Peter Kelly’s impressive tenure as St Mary’s College principal.

After 26 years at the college, 15 of which have been in charge, it certainly will be the end of an era for Mr Kelly — and St Mary’s.

But a new chapter beckons for the retiring principal, who’ll hand over the reins in the lead up to the 2019 school year.

‘‘It’s been hard work and all encompassing sometimes, but it’s been infinitely rewarding, and I will look back with some very fond memories,’’ he said.

‘‘But I think it’s the right time, and the place will really benefit from having a new set of eyes over it.’’

Catholic education has been Mr Kelly’s home for his entire career, because it has, as he described, ‘‘such a great culture that teaches you a lot about respectful relationships’’.

He kicked off his 38-year career at St Brendan’s in Flemington, which was followed by his first teaching stint at St Mary’s and then at Sacred Heart in Yea where he was principal, before returning to St Mary’s in 2002.

There’s a reason Mr Kelly has stuck around the college for so long — the staff, students and their families.

‘‘So much has changed in 20 years — in technology, in education, and in society — and all the while I feel like St Mary’s has grown and developed but we’ve still kept really grounded around our families, and kept a really great staff culture that shows we care for one another, and we take that in to our classrooms every day,’’ Mr Kelly said.

‘‘ Our identity as a Catholic school is really important, and we’ve been able to strengthen that over the years and strengthen the way our kids see themselves as learners.

‘‘Relationships are everything for student outcomes, and that’s why we’re here, to offer the best educational prospects for every single child in this school, and if we can continue to do that St Mary’s will always thrive.’’

Retirement wasn’t an easy decision for Mr Kelly, and he is still filled with mixed emotions as it looms closer and closer.

But he’s a man with a plan, and has plenty to keep him busy in to this new phase of life.

‘‘I turn 60 in December and I always had a long-term plan that I wanted to spend the last third of my life doing something different to this,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s very difficult leaving, it’s been such a big part of my life, but it’s on to the next chapter now. We will have four grandkids in two years in April next year so that changes everything.

‘‘I’m happy, sad and relieved all at the same time, so it’s very mixed. But I think neither myself or Brian (O’Dwyer) will ever be strangers to St Mary’s, and from now on we have to let go of stuff and just become a friend of St Mary’s and really enjoy that.’’

Friends, colleagues and families will join Mr Kelly and Mr O’Dwyer to jointly celebrate their respective careers tomorrow, with a mass, morning tea and presentation from the students.

Brian O’Dwyer

Travel and adventure await Brian O’Dwyer, who will call time on his 38-year teaching career — 34 of which have been spent at Seymour’s St Mary’s College — at the end of this year.

Coming straight out of the building trade and in to teaching, Mr O’Dwyer combined his two loves and taught at Broadmeadows Technical School for five years, before making the move to St Mary’s.

There, he’s been the woodwork guru for a generation of students, while his pathways teaching and mentoring have helped guide hundreds of Years 9 and 10 students on their chosen career paths.

Then there’s the college drama productions — one of Mr O’Dwyer’s fondest memories — where he has been head of backstage since he arrived at St Mary’s.

Reflecting on his time at the college, Mr O’Dwyer said it was the staff and students that he’ll miss the most.

‘‘I look forward to coming to school every day, it’s a great place to work,’’ he said.

‘‘The banter with the kids is really enjoyable. Hard to believe but I look forward to yard duty. Of course you have to sort out a few dramas and say ‘pick up papers’ now and again, but just the general banter with the kids is a lot of fun.

‘‘The memories with the staff and the camaraderie we all have is also something that I’ll look back on fondly.

‘‘There’s an uplifted feeling around the school, and it has a great community feeling about it. I’ll miss the place, that’s for sure.’’

But all good things must come to an end, and Mr O’Dwyer and his wife Cath, who also has retirement plans for the not-too-distant future, plan to hit the road — and the skies — to tick off a few bucket list items.

Also on the horizon for Mr O’Dwyer is the chance to spend more time with his family and of course, there’s plenty of odd jobs around the house to keep him busy in to his retirement.

‘‘It’s a new phase for Cath and I, but we’re looking forward to what’s ahead of us,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re just going to wander about and see the rest of Australia that we haven’t already seen, and have a look at a few parts of the world that we’re interested in looking at as well.

‘‘I’ve got plenty of projects at home that I’ve never got around to doing, and I’m involved in all sorts of community things as well, so people will still see me around.

‘‘I have four grandkids now, so I’m looking forward to spending some time with the kids and grandkids and going to their school things which I haven’t been able to do, so I’ll enjoy all of that.’’

Outgoing St Mary’s College principal Peter Kelly said Mr O’Dwyer’s dedication and involvement in college life over more than three decades has been second-to-none.

‘‘His selfless dedication to the life of the college, be it his involvement in the college productions, art shows, carnivals, the Parents and Friends Association, or the college board, has shown him to be a model of leadership within the school,’’ he said.

Mr O’Dwyer’s contribution to St Mary’s will be celebrated at tomorrow’s joint celebration with Mr Kelly.