We are delighted to be working with Teachers Inspire Ireland this year. The aim of the campaign is to celebrate inspiring teachers nationwide, and to recognise the transformative role they play in our lives. Our work on the initiative has us all in the office taking a trip down memory lane, and reminiscing about our schooldays. We’ve been thinking of the teachers that inspired us in our youth, guided us through our teenage years, and left a lasting impact into adulthood, and we thought we would share some of these stories with you here.
For some of us at Alice, teaching runs in the family. Both Niamh and Martina grew up surrounded by inspiring teachers, with numerous family members and friends working in the profession.
While some of us might search for familiar faces on the first day of secondary school Martina was a bit too familiar with one face in particular, as her French teacher was her own mother!
“It was a pretty memorable teaching experience – she came in on the first day and joked straight away that everyone should be nice to me because I was her daughter! She was my French teacher for the whole six years I was in secondary school, and she was a ‘sharer’: constantly regaling her classes with stories of what my sisters and I got up to at home.”
The transition from primary to secondary school can be tough, however Niamh had an additional challenge as she moved from her local English-speaking primary school to an Irish-speaking secondary school.
“There was a lot to adjust to, and it was overwhelming at the start, but a teacher that really stands out to me during this time, and throughout my six years at the school is the then principal: Caitlín Mhic Chárthaigh. I remember in first year, when we were deciding what subjects to choose, she went out of her way to facilitate me and three other students in my year who wanted to study two languages, by taking on the French class (of just four students) herself. This was typical of the dedication she had to the school. She always went above and beyond! Caitlín has done so much for the Irish language in Carlow, she was a brilliant teacher (although scary at times) and it was a privilege to have been a pupil in the school while she was there.”
For Elaine it was her art teacher, Mr Murphy, who left a lasting impression. “He was so enthusiastic and encouraging – even letting us play our own music (tapes!) in class. He saw the benefits of giving us creative freedom to explore different methods, materials and approaches, and gave us the art room doors to create an installation! He was one of a kind, and I will be eternally grateful to him for inspiring me to go on to art college – some of the best days of my life!”
Katie went to a large secondary school in Dublin and had many of the same teachers throughout her six years there. The one that sticks out most for her is her French teacher, Mr Gleeson.
“He was a GAA fanatic from Navan: every time Meath won a match, we had a pop quiz; every time they lost, we had a quiz!” But what has stuck with Katie most is the music and cinema he shared with the class during transition year. “We spent the year exploring French media and it really opened my eyes to different genres of music. I fell in love with a French synth band called Air and they remain on heavy rotation on my Spotify to this day.”
Ciara credits her secondary school teacher, Cliona Havel, as her inspiration for embarking on her career path. “Ms Havel encouraged us to think critically about what we were reading in history and about the world around us. She also made us think about what needed to be changed and what we could do about it. I didn’t know it at the time but her approach influenced my decision to study social policy and politics and to work with organisations that are trying to achieve progressive, social change.”
Emily regaled us with tales of her favourite teacher in primary school: Sr Xavier, who had a warm heart and a soft spot for her students. She particularly remembers during a snowy lead up to Christmas in 1995 when Sr Xavier rang Emily’s mother specifically to reassure Emily that adverse weather conditions wouldn’t affect Santa’s sleigh!
Martina and Emily attended the same secondary school, and both thought of their late history teacher, Ann Ryan, as one of the most inspiring teachers they ever had. They categorically agree she had a strong and lasting influence on them both. “She was a voracious reader, and she used to recommend book after book to us. I started keeping a list of her recommendations and working my way through all of them. I was still going through that list well into my 20s, reading works of fiction, autobiographies and factual accounts of the World Wars, and much, much more…” Like Martina, Emily also read many of her book recommendations, and has always remembered her inscription on their sixth-year yearbook: ‘Those who fail to learn history, are doomed to repeat the past’. Very apt for the times we live in.
Join the conversation and tell us about the inspiring teachers who made a lasting impression on you or those in your community by taking to Twitter and using #TeachersInpireIreland or by nominating them at www.teachersinspire.ie