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Alexandra College

Staff Spotlight - Hilary O'Donnell

Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Personal Assistant to the Principal Hilary O’Donnell about her time in Alex.


What interested you in working in a school?

I heard through a friend that there was a vacancy for a role in Alex.  I was interested in working in a school because I love meeting people and I love children, and my own children had just started school, so applying for the role was an easy choice for me. I love the energy and the busyness of a school, and the fact that no two days are the same. I love that there are so many different events over the course of the calendar year, and every day is different which makes it very exciting. 


Why did you choose to join the Alex community?

I attended Alex myself and I knew I would love to spend time here working in the school, and it turns out I was right! It’s a great job. I love the mission, ethos and values here. The school is vibrant and forward thinking, and I’ve always really enjoyed being part of the Alex community. My two daughters attended the school too, and I loved watching them grow up in the school as part of this community.


What has it been like to experience Alex as both a student and a member of staff?

It’s been really interesting! I loved my time as a student here and I made great friends, who I am still in touch with today. 

When I came to work here a number of years later then, it was initially daunting going into the staffroom as some of the teachers who had taught me as a student were still teaching here and to encounter them as colleagues was a very unique experience. I had nothing to worry about of course: everyone was so lovely and friendly, and I have, while working here, made great friends with both staff members and parents. 


What’s it like to be personal assistant to the Principal?

Well, every day is different. In the mornings we take a look at Barbara’s diary, see what’s going on for the day, and then we’re off. It’s always hectic in the principal’s office.  I might need to answer staff, student or parent queries, or it could really be anything. One of the most important things is trying to prioritize all of the different things coming in. You get all sorts of things on your doorstep, and trying to prioritize what’s important or urgent and knowing when to bring it to her attention is one of the main parts of the job. Barbara and I have a great relationship. We get on really well, and we work really well together; to be honest, we have a great bit of craic most days. She’s great to work with. 


How have you adapted your work for Covid-19?

Well of course, my work’s changed in a number of ways; obviously we’re wearing masks now and using protective Perspex screens, and the biggest change has been that most of our meetings are happening on virtual platforms. This has meant that the interaction with staff, parents and students has significantly decreased, which is the bit I miss the most from my work prior to the introduction of restrictions.

On the upside, I have to say that it has been amazing to observe the teachers and other staff members adapt and upskill their technological ability in order to provide the best education to the students and to see the Alex community in general just adjust overnight to online learning. I regularly contacted parents while the restrictions were in place in order to ascertain their daughters’ progress and how they were getting on, and it was always so lovely to hear positive reactions and receive great feedback for the teachers. It was fantastic.


What has been the highlight of your time in Alex so far?

I really do have so many highlights! Variety is definitely the spice of life in this job. I have loved arriving at work to see what would be in store each day. 

Making great friends with colleagues and parents has definitely been a highlight. I have loved watching students arrive at the school, flourish and move on to new adventures. You see some of the girls starting in first year so shy, and then you see them maturing into confident young adults.  

I feel very grateful that I got to watch so many shows, concerts, exhibitions and sporting events in the College.

I was also lucky enough to travel with groups of students to Kolkata with the Hope Foundation on a number of occasions. Those are very special memories for me, and were life changing experiences.