Gemma Maher, principal of Educate Together National School, Rathcoole, Co. Dublin, received the prestigious Teachers Inspire Ireland Desmond Award.
At a special ceremony in Dublin City University, hosted by RTÉ Broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan, Ms. Maher was recognised for the inspirational role she played in the lives of her students, alongside three other teachers from across Ireland.
Ms. Maher was nominated by parent Kirsten Fitzgerald. Ms. Maher was the first professional to validate concerns Kirsten had about their daughter, Olivia Hogg and, as a result, she received intervention and the learning support that she needed. Kisten said “we should always continue to highlight our concerns and not give up on our children if we feel there is something that needs attention. When a tricky situation is resolved in the right way, it can become a model or template for the benefit of others.”
Organised and run by Dublin City University, Teachers Inspire is an Ireland-wide initiative that seeks to celebrate teachers and recognise the transformative role they play in our lives and in our communities. Acclaimed Author, Louise O’Neill, returned as this year’s curator and host of the Teachers Inspire podcast where she spoke to some of the nominees about the challenges they faced at school and how their teachers helped them overcome them. On her involvement with the Teachers Inspire initiative, Louise said: “It is an honour to curate and host the Teachers Inspire podcast once again. I have loved and felt immensely privileged to listen to and to share the stories of the nominators and nominees from across Ireland. Coming from a family of teachers, I have seen first hand how much love, passion and effort goes into the job, and every single teacher deserves to be recognised for the work that they do when it comes to shaping the lives of future generations.”
The Teachers Inspire initiative is generously supported by a philanthropic donation from Mr. Dermot Desmond. Commenting on the initiative, Mr. Desmond said: “In all that they do, teachers have a profoundly positive influence on the lives of our children and young people. They are true heroes of Irish society. For that reason, I have been genuinely delighted to support the Teachers Inspire initiative since it launched in 2019. I want to congratulate this year’s worthy recipients and indeed, every teacher who was nominated.”
Professor Anne Looney, Executive Dean of Dublin City University’s Institute of Education, said:
“Teachers Inspire celebrates the incredible contribution teachers make to young people and their communities across Ireland. The podcast has received a huge response, and to listen to the remarkable stories of teachers influencing lives in such positive and profound ways, is truly inspiring.
These stories are part of Ireland’s great teaching heritage and our reputation for producing some of the best teachers in the world. These are the stories that inspire the next generation of teachers – especially the thousands studying with us in DCU Institute of Education, and the many more who apply each year to join our teacher education programmes. And these stories are also a reflection of the calibre and status of teachers and teaching in Irish society. We need to keep telling these stories: our children and young people deserve great and inspiring teachers.”
Speaking on Teachers Inspire, Professor Daire Keogh, President of Dublin City University, said:
“Teaching is the profession of hope. The impact of teachers on children and young people’s lives, and our society as a whole, cannot be overestimated. They are at the very heart of communities across the country, educating, encouraging and inspiring the next generation. DCU is proud to give recognition to these exceptional educators through Teachers Inspire.”
About the Teacher Inspire 2022 Awardees:
Jennifer Hutton (nominated by Susan Maguire)
Senior infants teacher, Jennifer Hutton, from St. Fiacc’s National School, Co. Carlow was nominated by Susan Maguire (a mother of one of her students), as she showed compassion and kindness during a difficult family time. Susan faced an early delivery of her baby (Dáire) at only 27 weeks while on holiday in Spain, and was forced to remain in a Spanish hospital for 2-weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions. Her son, Chirstopher (6), returned to Ireland with family until Susan, husband Brian and baby Dáire could return home safely. Miss Hutton, Christopher’s Senior Infants teacher, assured Susan that she would look after him as if he was her own and went above and beyond her duty as a teacher to look after his wellbeing during a tumultuous time. Susan said “I will spend the rest of my life being grateful to her for her kindness and compassion to my family.”
Ruairi Farrell (nominated by past pupil Ciara Nolan)
Ruairí Farrell, Principal of Greystones Community College, Co. Wicklow, was nominated by past pupil Ciara Nolan who was struggling with an eating disorder during her time in school. Mr. Farrell took action and made an appointment for her then 17-year-old Ciara to see a counsellor, which helped her get the help she needed. Ciara says: “Mr. Farrell would always pull you aside if he thought you were having a bad day, and really took the time to sit and listen to anything you had to say.” With his help and support Ciara said that Mr. Farrell saved her both mentally and physically.
Joe McAndrew (nominated by past pupil Ann Loughney)
Joe McAndrew, a now retired principal from Banagher National School, Co. Mayo was nominated by past pupil Ann Loughney, who has carried Joe’s compassion and inspiration with her throughout her adult life. As a teacher in the 1980s, he “was a man before his time” with a passion for gender equality that he instilled in all of his students and “he made a conscious effort to make sure we were all equals” says Ann. He also prepared his pupils for the world of the future, bringing his own computer into school for students to learn about it, in an era when computers were years away from being in the average household.
Gemma Maher (nominated by parent Kirsten Fitzgerald)
Gemma Maher, Principal of Educate Together National School, Rathcoole, Co. Dublin was nominated by parent Kirsten Fitzgerald. Gemma was the first professional to validate concerns Kirsten had about their daughter, Olivia Hogg and, as a result, she received intervention and the learning support that she needed. Kisten said “we should always continue to highlight our concerns and not give up on our children if we feel there is something that needs attention. When a tricky situation is resolved in the right way, it can become a model or template for the benefit of others.”
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