Plumstead Prep principal retires

Holly OConnor surrounded by children.

After almost 20 years steering Plumstead Preparatory School, first as a teacher, then as principal, Holly O’Connor has retired.

She spoke to the Bulletin the week before the end of term last year.

Since joining in July 1996, the school has grown from about 400 children to 615 today.

“Highlights are watching the joy on happy faces – all our children are under 10 years. And I’ve loved putting on concerts, writing and laying out the annual school magazine, reflecting a year in the life of the school, and especially all the hugs I get when I walk down the passages,” says Ms O’Connor.

Her passion is teaching children to read and she loves the rewarding feeling when a child learns to read for the first time. “I’m an avid reader. And for art teaching – I specialised in this. The school is full of beautiful examples of the children’s creativity. I introduced the Grade R section in 2001, computer lessons, a full-time physical education teacher and a full-time music teacher. I started off with 11 teachers, we now have 25,” she says.

Challenges are having had three curriculums over the past 20 years.

“And different styles in parenting that have resulted in a new kind of child entering the education system. This has meant that we’ve had to change our way of teaching to accommodate this.”

Ms O’Connor started teaching in 1982, for two years, before getting married in January 1985 and moving to Wynberg Boys’ Junior. “In those days there were quotas for married women – we had to be on contracts. Then, when pregnant with my first daughter, my contract was not renewed. We moved to PE for six years and I taught at two schools there. We returned to Cape Town in 1996,” says Ms O’Connor.

Ms O’Connor has been actively involved in the union, National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (NAPTOSA), serving as branch chair.

She is a teaching counsellor, serving on the provincial standing committee and also represents her circuit on the Principals’ Forum, and Metropole South Education District on the Provincial Principals’ Forum.

In her retirement she plans to spend some time at home – her husband is also retiring and they want to travel. She also wants to take up art again – probably starting with some painting lessons.

School governing body chairperson, Heather Calmeyer, says Ms O’Connor leaves behind a lifetime of memories and achievements and all who will think of her will smile fondly as they recall some past interaction.