Vale: Mick Connell Principal St Columba’s Primary School, Berrigan

Mick’s legacy to education will be his enduring passion for kids to learn and wanting to make a difference.

Mick was born to be a teacher. His passion for learning, his love of children and his desire to ‘make a difference ’ are hallmarks of what defined him as a leader.

He never tired of improving himself as a leader, whether it be through study or ensuring he was at the ‘cutting edge’ of contemporary education through attending professional learning opportunities. He was particularly committed to not only Catholic education but quality education.

When Mick spoke of his work and of the students who were privileged to have been taught by him, it was always with a smile and a genuine interest in giving himself completely to be the best for them.

He was on a constant quest to improve and was a very reflective practitioner. He sought advice readily from those who he admired in education and believed in as leaders, aspiring to grow in his own leadership.

Mick believed so much in what he was doing to make a difference that he was prepared to move himself and the family to experience leadership opportunities.

It would have been so easy to stay in Melbourne or at Mater Dei Primary in Wagga. But he saw opportunities and very capably took on the role as Assistant Principal at St Joseph’s Junee. When the opportunity arose for principalship at St Columba’s Berrigan, Mick did what Mick always did, thought about it, sought advice from trusted colleagues and then made what was to be become a very positive and successful decision.

After dutifully being the steward of that school community, this year saw him apply for and successfully gain appointment to St Mary’s Corowa as principal for 2016 and beyond.

Sadly, that exciting opportunity was taken away all too soon for him. We however know that his capacity to build quality relationships and lead school communities in an effective way, would have once again been shared and appreciated in the Corowa community.

Mick’s colleagues would describe him as friendly, loyal and someone you could trust and rely upon.

He enjoyed a beer or two with the rest of the principals at appropriate times, but was just as comfortable being the consummate professional that he was and he was certainly respected for that.

His sense of humility combined with his capacity to have and share a laugh made him balanced and highly respected by both peers and those in authority in the office.

Mick’s legacy to education will be his enduring passion for kids to learn and wanting to make a difference and try to ensure every child had access to a quality education.

No more could be asked of a teacher. He will be sorely missed for a life taken way too soon and for so many possibilities and challenges that remained ahead that he would have tackled with his smile and that wonderful laugh that brought so much to so many.

It’s been a privilege to have known him and I believe those that are left are better people for having him in our lives.

Michael Hopkinson
Deputy Director of Catholic Education, Catholic Identity and School Improvement, Sandhurst Diocese, Victoria.