An outstanding, dedicated and modest leader is how colleagues and students will remember Colm Kehoe, the founding principal of Educate Together Secondary School Wicklow, who died suddenly at his home in Gorey on Saturday, June 4.
t was his qualities as a leader that allowed Colm to lead the establishment of the Educate Together Secondary School (ETSS) Wicklow in recent years. He was appointed Principal of ETSS Wicklow in May 2019, bringing with him a wealth of experience from his work in education in Ireland and abroad. He invested huge time, skill and hard work to build a wonderful team of staff and a strong school community in the new school.
Colm’s commitment to his role remained as strong as ever once the school opened its doors. Within months of opening the school, he established the Wicklow Model United Nations, inviting students from around the region to ETSS Wicklow to discuss global issues and develop leadership and other important skills. He then successfully moved this initiative online, providing important engagement and connections for students during the pandemic and ensuring continuity of learning. He also created the first all-Ireland Educate Together debating competition and engaged the whole national Educate Together second-level school network in this uplifting and educational online event.
CEO of ETSS Wicklow, Emer Nowlan said they were all ‘shocked and deeply saddened’ to learn of Colm’s death.
“Colm was an outstanding school leader – his dedication to young people and passion for student-centred learning were clearly visible to all who knew him. In three short years, Colm has built a vibrant, happy school community in ETSS Wicklow, where students are at the centre of everything, and educational innovation and creativity are the norm. And every step of the way, Colm put students first – his quiet modesty was in contrast to his enormous achievements as an educator and school principal,” she said.
Chair of the Board of Management of Wicklow ETSS, Danny Haskins, expressed the profound sadness of the whole school community on the loss of Colm.
“As the leader of our new school community, Colm built strong relationships with students, parents, staff and board members over the past three years, and we are devastated at his loss. He was a committed professional, a highly-valued colleague and a much-loved teacher who brought Educate Together’s student-centred and democratic ethos to life in ETSS Wicklow over the past three years.”
Colm will be deeply missed by his loving mother Elizabeth; his wonderful sister Cecilia; his loving brothers Ciaran and Adrian; and Sandra, Daragh, Abeigh and Katie. He will be sadly missed by his aunts and uncles, all his cousins, his extended family, neighbours, colleagues, students and his wide circle of friends.
Colm’s remains reposed at his family residence in Tramore Heights, on Saturday, June 11. His Requiem Mass took place on Sunday June 12, at 12 p.m. at the Holy Cross Church, Tramore, with burial immediately afterwards in St. Declan’s Cemetery.
Since Colm’s sudden passing, many of his former colleagues, students and friends have paid their tributes to him, reflecting on the impact that he had on their lives and education around the globe. This included many other members of the ETSS network in Wicklow and across Ireland.
“I have been deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Colm. Working alongside him over the last few years in establishing a new school has been a privilege. Colm’s enthusiasm for education (and a little debating) was infectious and I am sure his legacy will live on in our school culture going forward. My deepest sympathies to Colm’s family, friends, fellow colleagues, students, and the community at ETSS Wicklow, he is a great loss to all who knew him. May he rest in peace,” wrote Louisa Meehan, from the Board of Management at ETSS Wicklow.
Parent representative of the ETSS Wicklow Board of Management, Nigel Anderson wrote of the enthusiasm and dedication that Colm brought to his role.
“Thinking of Colm, I can’t help but recall the boundless enthusiasm which he brought to our monthly get-togethers, driven by a great energy and passion for his work, for this mammoth project he had undertaken with such vision and optimism. I’ve seldom met someone so committed, so dedicated, and as the founding principal he leaves an indelible mark, and will not be forgotten. I’m so sorry that he won’t be around to see the school project completed, and so sorry for his friends and family to have lost the man we only got to know a small part of.”
Many of those in the ETSS network spoke of Colm’s passion for debating, and how he inspired confidence and enthusiasm for students involved in the ETSS Debating Competition.
“So sad to hear of the tragic passing of Colm – what an outstanding leader in learning and role model for us all. His establishment of the ETSS debate competition has meant a lot to myself as a coordinator and to the students at our school, many of whom grew in confidence as a result of their participation in the scheme. His energy and infectious positivity will be sincerely missed,” wrote Christine Good of Cork ETSS.
Teacher at Goatstown ETSS, Anna Gillespie wrote that she had the ‘privilege’ of being part of a group of teachers in the ETSS Community, who were led by Colm through his organisation of the ETSS Debating Competition and the Wicklow Model United Nations Competition.
“Colm led us all through these competitions with kindness, generosity, passion and professionalism. This in turn brought much joy and an intrigue in politics and the world around us to all our students, who were lucky enough to be part of these events especially through the difficult Covid years. Many thanks Colm. May he rest in peace,” she added.
Many staff members from Ecole Européenne Bruxelles II (EEB2) in Belgium expressed their shock and sadness at the death of their former colleague.
“Colm started a debate culture at EEB2. Because of him, a lot of students learned to express their beliefs or ideas amongst others who obviously have another opinion. This is a real achievement and a benefit in our goal to emancipate students. Colm was a very kind colleague. It was always a pleasure to speak with him,” wrote Gerben van der Meer.
“You passed away that early, having still so much to give and to share. We as the European School Brussels II had the chance to have you among us during four years as the inspiring teacher you were. Your always positive attitude and your authentic and convincing character allowed you to spread your enthusiasm into the hearts of the pupils and to get them this way actively involved in their own learning as in shaping their own life. They will miss you. We will miss you. Thank you, Colm,” wrote Deputy Director of EEB2, Joachim Schmelz.
This tributes were echoed by Lea Andries from EEB2.
“My deepest sympathy to Colm’s family and friends, colleagues and students, past and present. As Principal Educational Adviser EEB2, I was the privileged witness of Colm’s inexhaustible energy and creativity. The Mediaclub and the Grand Debates meticulously monitored by him were an important medium to draw attention to the well-being of students in EEB2 at all levels. BRUMUN showed the result of his professional coaching in public speaking. Colm made the difference in the lives of so many. God, rest Colm, you were indeed one of life’s finest.”
Roisin Northcote, who was a student of Colm’s at EEB2, wrote of the impact that he had on her life.
“Mr Kehoe was truly one of the best teachers I have ever had. He genuinely cared about each of his students and he put so much of his time and effort into organising extracurricular activities such as debate clubs, competitions and, most significantly, the Brussels MUN. He always encouraged me to pursue my passions and dreams and gave everyone at EEBII the opportunity to experience an education outside of the school curriculum. He introduced me to public speaking and debating and instilled in me a love for them, something I cannot and will never get the opportunity to thank him for. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.”