By Eimhear McGurk
AS Omagh High School opened its doors on Monday to a brand new set of students, it also welcomed a certain Christos Gaitatzis.
Originally from Greece, this new academic year signifies an “exciting new change” for new principal, Mr Gaitatzis.
Not only is it his first teaching post in the North, it is also his first ever principalship.
The decision to move to rural Tyrone may seem an unlikely one for the Greek man, but Mr Gaitatzis has grown very accustomed to the local area over the last 15 years, as his wife is actually from Victoria Bridge.
So, when the opportunity arose to advance his career and move closer to family, it was one he couldn’t pass up.
“When I came for the interview I was attracted not only by the people that were working here but also the warmth of the people I spoke to,” said Mr Gaitatzis. “I am from a very rural place myself, so Omagh would be very similar to the town in Greece where I come from.”
Mr Gaitatzis was born in northern Greece, in a small town close to Thessaloniki. He spent his younger years at home but made the big move to England for university in his late teens.
Studying Pharmacology at the University of Sunderland, Mr Gaitatzis had no intention of becoming a teacher, in fact, he had planned to go down the biochemistry route. But his path soon took a different turn and he fell in love with the idea of teaching others.
Following his first degree he moved to Preston to undertake a PGCE in science where he also completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
“My first job was in a small rural school, very similar to Omagh High School, in Leyland, Lancashire and then I went on to work in Blackpool and Preston,” explained Mr Gaitatzis.
“I’ve worked in Catholic schools and Protestant schools, in comprehensive schools, independent schools and grammar schools – so I’ve seen the whole spectrum really.”
During his 20-year teaching career, predominately as a physics teacher, Mr Gaitatzis has had various senior roles including a vice-principal position, but this is his first post as head of school.
“It’s very exciting, I’m getting into the deep water and following in the footsteps of some great people who worked in the school for a long time like Mrs Elkin and Mr Harper, whose names still resonate throughout the building.”
The saying ‘less is more’ is one that Mr Gaitatzis lives by, and one he believes rings true for Omagh High. With only 420 pupils enrolled, it is the smallest school Mr Gaitatzis has worked in but also, he believes, the “warmest”.
“I’m not talking about temperatures”, he laughed.
To read more about Mr Gaitatzis and his vision for Omagh High School visit https://subscriber.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/subscribe.aspx?source=4&eid=ca8f29da-a690-4590-9526-78b341aca02f