Simon was interviewed by Carlow People Newspaper on 26th August, just before school started. Below is the article:
Tuesday August 26 2008
Isn’t it strange how life happens? No one knows this better than Simon Lewis, the newly appointed Principal of the about-to-be-opened Educate Together school.
Just as he completed his studies in computer science in D.C.U., in 2000, the dot com bubble burst.
Simon was dating a teacher, Ros Normington, at the time so when one of her colleagues rang in sick one day, he boldly stepped into the breach and stood at the top of a classroom for the first time.
‘I said I’d give it a go and immediately fell in love with teaching,’ Simon smiles. ‘It’s a mile away from sitting all day in front of a computer and every day is different. It’s absolutely wonderful to see that Eureka! moment on a child’s face when they finally get to understand something.’
After his first taste of teaching, Simon quickly set about getting teaching qualifications, studying for a Post Graduate Cert. in Education in Wales.
One of his first jobs as a teacher was in Killinarden, Tallaght, a place that gave him a firm foundation for his career.
‘Yes, we certainly had some interesting days in that school!’ he remembers. ‘It was a happy, well run school that gave me a great grounding.’
Now married to Ros who teaches in Graiguecullen, Simon, who’s originally from Dublin, moved to Carlow. He was teaching in a convent school in Athy when he heard that a group of parents were interested in setting up an Educate Together school in Carlow.
Having already taught in such a school in Gorey, he was attracted to the core ethos of the Educate Together system. He climbed on board, along with the group of interested parents, to lobby the Government for a school to be set up here.
After two years of work, they got the goahead from the Department of Education and will open in September in a temporary building in the Shamrock Industrial Estate.
Simon explains that what attracted him specifically to the Educate Together system is that the schools are multi-denominational and are run on a principal of democracy.
‘The schools teach all religions but not within school hours,’ he explains. ‘For example, when we open in September, it’s the Jewish New Year so we’ll celebrate that. I like the fact that not one religion is taught because I think it’s very positive for a child to learn about lots of different beliefs.’
‘It’s also democratic in that everyone involved in the school – staff, children, parents and the community – work together to make the school a better place,’ he continues.
At just 29 years old, Simon admits being appointed Principal of the new school is exciting as he’s ‘fairly ambitious.’
‘I’ve put all my eggs into the one basket because I really, really want this,’ he says. ‘I’ve no ‘plan b’ but I’m really excited about it.’
On September 1, 28 children will start in the new Carlow Educate Together school, ranging from Junior Infants to Third Class. The school is still enrolling for the Junior Classes who they’ll take on a first come, first served basis.
It’s a reflection on how much Ireland’s multiculturalism that the Educate Together system is becoming increasingly popular. Simon is keen to acknowledge that mainstream schools are keen to embrace a multi cultural Ireland, too.
‘The school’s intention is for the child to have enough knowledge of other religions to be understanding and tolerant of them,’ he continues. ‘I do think other schools are doing that, too.’
And just like mainstream schools, they’re funded by the Department of Education and will need the support of parents to boost their coffers every year.
Simon also says that every teacher and Principal he’s met since the announcement of his appointment have been supportive and encouraging to him and the parents involved.
‘I think, initially, people were worried,’ he says, ‘and I do know that some schools had their funding pulled, but that was nothing to do with us. When I was offered the role of Principal, every teacher I met shook my hand. I feel very positive about the whole thing.’
So, what if? What if the dot com bubble was still floating around, making people millionaires? What if he hadn’t stepped in as a sub teacher?
‘It’s such a bizarre twist of events!’ he concludes, laughing. ‘I would have been washing dishes in a restaurant somewhere, waiting for something to turn up. I’d like to think, though, that I’d have ended up in education anyway. I haven’t worked a day since I started because I just love it that much. Every day is different.’