Skerries teacher, ‘Ms Duffy’, an inspiring lady!

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett

Retired Skerries teacher Claire Duffy is one of four teachers who received a national award from Teachers Inspire initiative at DCU recently.

Nominated by Rob O’Hanrahan, news reporter with Virgin Media Television, Claire said she was deeply humbled to have won the award and to read Rob’s touching nomination.

“I’ve fond memories from my career as a teacher, especially during my 28 years at Skerries Community College, But teaching needs huge energy, and I felt it was the right time for me to go as I have health issues (rheumatoid arthritis),” said Claire who retired only last summer. 

The award recognised Claire’s years in teaching at Skerries, from the classroom to debating to drama, and more.

“I was 16 years as a Year Head there,” said Claire, who also worked as the work experience co-ordinator with the Transition Year (TY) students.

Claire has lived in Rush for over 30 years with husband Paul, and adult sons Ciaran and Conor. Describing herself as being from the inner city, “a true Liberties girl”, her father ran PJ O’Reilly’s shop in the Pimlico/Coombe area. 

“We came to Rush in 1991, and before that, lived in Skerries and Lusk. Ciaran is now living with Emma and our first grandchild Cathal in New Zealand while Conor lives and works from home. Both my husband and son work in IT.”

Having graduated from Trinity College in 1982, Claire taught for a year at Sutton Park School, before travelling to work for two years in the United Arab Emirates.

She then lived and worked in London where she and Paul set up home.

“I worked as a recruiter for Reed Recruitment, a huge company back in the day. We returned to Ireland when Ciaran a year old – we made a conscious decision to raise the children supported and surrounded by family.

“For a time, I worked for Atlas Recruitment Consultants but I went back into teaching in 1993 after Conor was born.  I think it’s important to have a broader global experience in life. You bring your experience into your work as a teacher, into the classroom.”

Certainly her time as a recruitment consultant proved invaluable for Claire at Skerries Community College where she became the work experience co-ordinator with the TY students.

“My subjects were English, history and psychology. I was able to use some of my recruitment skills with the TY students – from mock interviews, aptitude, preparing CVs, and checking out their strengths, career wise.

“It should not only be about points; it is so important to identify what careers they might enjoy – and selecting life-long careers,” she added.

Pressures today

“The pressures are so different for students today,” she continued. “The IT pressures and the role of social media and their sense of self wasn’t prevalent in my early teaching years.

The role of social media in young people’s lives is huge, they can be very affected especially their self-esteem, be it positive or negative. 

“For the adults, both parents and teachers, it’s hard also to navigate the minefield of social media. Online bullying is a reality for today’s youth, during very vulnerable years.”

However, Claire noted there was a huge improvement in the awareness of mental health issues and wellbeing. “Also, growing awareness of the many diverse communities and backgrounds that students come from.

“There is a greater understanding of the differences within the student population and teachers do play a positive role in integration and tolerance. I believe the barriers that were there between teacher and pupil in the past are broken down, there’s a better trust between student and tutor now.”

In the nomination by Virgin news reporter, Rob O’Hanrahan, a former teacher himself, he wrote: “Every single day I use the basics Ms Duffy instilled in me, both in terms of my use of the English language and an ability to speak publicly, and confidently, but more than that.

“It’s about treating people with decency, encouraging their passions and asking someone a second time if they’re actually okay. From being a lonely 12-year-old right through to today, Ms Duffy was one of the teachers who truly helped shape who and what type of adult I would eventually be.”

Teachers Inspire is an Ireland-wide initiative run by DCU that seeks to celebrate teachers and to recognise the transformative role they play in our lives and in our communities. 

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