Robert Burns Academy (RBA) pupils write for the Cumnock Chronicle...

After many years of teaching at Cumnock and Auchinleck, along with the RBA, we are sad to see him go.

Mr Gilchrist did wonderful things as headteacher, as well as teaching geography at Auchinleck.

A handful of our pupils, as part of RBA's press team, have gathered to honour our headteacher, wish him well, and ask him to reflect on his years with us.

We have had a wonderful few years at RBA with a great headteacher, we hope he enjoyed his time here as much as we have enjoyed having him!

We asked Mr Gilchrist his best memories of his time as headteacher, and we are happy to say he is proud.

He said: "All my best memories involve young folks, being able to bring them together even during a time of pandemic and isolation."

From Mr Gilchrist's comment, we see that bringing schools together during Covid 19 was a challenge and yet he managed to succeed, along with getting such a positive outcome.

He said: "When our young folks succeed at say maths challenges, rugby or football, it fills me with pride."

Cumnock Chronicle: Mr Gilchrist with pupils during the opening of the Robert Burns Academy.Mr Gilchrist with pupils during the opening of the Robert Burns Academy. (Image: East Ayrshire Council)

Mr Gilchrist expressed extreme levels of pride during our talks with him and we think all RBA pupils should be proud of themselves and their accomplishments, just as their headteacher is.

He said: "People succeeding are my best memories."

Mr Gilchrist is proud of everybody’s success and we would like to say just how proud we are of his success at RBA, as nobody would have been the same without it.

Mr Gilchrist has been a headteacher in the local area since 2011, and as such we thought it would be fitting to ask him his proudest achievement during these last 12 years.

He said: "Bringing together a huge community of five schools."

Throughout the years of RBA, there has been a few stirs but no one has felt excluded.

Everyone has diverse backgrounds, beliefs, upbringings and hometowns.

Everybody forgets that The Barony Campus isn’t just what was Auchinleck Academy and Cumnock Academy, it is also Barshare Primary, Greenmill Primary and Hillside School.

Even with multiple communities, from familiar faces to different faces, everyone feels safe, included and that they can be themselves with no judgement.

For that, we are so grateful for the school and the opportunities it opens for us.

Cumnock Chronicle: Mr Gilchrist taking over a joint role in charge of Auchinleck and Cumnock academies.Mr Gilchrist taking over a joint role in charge of Auchinleck and Cumnock academies. (Image: NQ Archive)

Mr Gilchrist had no hesitations when asked about what he’d miss most in his retirement, stating: “Dead easy. You guys.”

It is clear to all those in the school that Mr Gilchrist truly cares about the pupils in the Barony Campus.

It was common to see him wandering the halls and stopping to chat with pupils.

Many secondary pupils have stated that they were often greeted by RBA’s headteacher.

The primary pupils weren’t afraid to greet him either and he always returned their "hellos" with a cheery greeting of his own.

Mr Gilchrist truly enjoys the fact that the Barony Campus is a mixture of five schools and communities across 33 miles, and the diverse mixture of pupils this brings him.

He was thankful for the opportunity to reflect on his work within the community and was happy to share how his role as headteacher allowed him to bond with the people in our local area.

He said: "One of the best opportunities is the chance to work with parents and the organisations which support parents in the community."

The departing teacher was particularly keen to talk about the effects of the pandemic on the community, and how he was able to support people in their time of need.

He told us: "It gave me a real opportunity to meet people that otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to meet so that we could help those particularly vulnerable families.

"Most people have felt that that was something that was really important at the time and actually supported at the time, and made sure that those young folks and their families were involved as part of our community.

"Because you remember how isolated we all felt, you couldn’t even see your aunties or uncles etc, not seeing your folks in the community was a big issue at that particular time."

Finally, he emphasised how grateful he is for the opportunities that he has had to give back to his hometown of New Cumnock.

He said: “I’ve really enjoyed becoming involved with our local parents as well, because I myself was brought up in New Cumnock.

"It was Cairnhill Primary School at that particular time and to be able to help the community has been a really nice opportunity. I’ve really thoroughly enjoyed that as well."

It is incredibly apparent that Mr Gilchrist has a real desire to support his local community and we anticipate that this aspect of his job will certainly be missed.

Cumnock Chronicle: Mr Gilchrist enjoying his time in charge.Mr Gilchrist enjoying his time in charge. (Image: East Ayrshire Council)

He was also more than happy to share some advice for present and future pupils at RBA.

The main takeaway from our interview is that Mr Gilchrist is incredibly proud of his pupils and has thoroughly enjoyed the many years which he has spent with them.

When asked what advice he had for pupils, he said: "Here's the biggest thing: have confidence in yourself."

This message was echoed as he continued to encourage pupils to have faith in themselves and their abilities, and to take pride in the community to which they belong to.

He said: “When I talk to quite a number of young people, they have success, they have success to an extent, but there's a group of folks who don't really realise how good they are as people.

"They don’t realise how much they can contribute to society. I think we have a really wonderful community and sometimes people just need to have that wee bit higher expectation."

At the end of the interview, Mr Gilchrist reminded the pupils of RBA of his message to them all.

He said: "That’s the biggest bit of advice: have confidence in yourself; believe in yourself and have a can-do attitude."