Teachers Inspire Ireland 2022

2021 Stories

Passion, inspiration and creativityShaping future generations

We would do things in class that allowed us to be creative, often in ways that teachers at that time simply didn't do. She fostered my love of English and developed it in so many ways.”

Claire Duffy, “was one of the teachers who truly helped shape who and what type of adult I would eventually be.”

She was Rob O’Hanrahan’s English teacher to Junior Certificate in Skerries Community College, Dublin and not only fostered his love for the language but, he says, also developed it.

He had found primary school quite difficult and struggled to make friends and going into secondary was “a new start.”

“English was always my favourite subject, right the way through primary school. I loved reading, and devoured books right the way through primary school and into secondary as well. And I loved to write, as well. So having an English teacher who was passionate, and wanted us to do well, was always going to be important. But Ms. Duffy was a lot more than that.”

She was very involved in the local theatre group and would arrange for students to go to see plays in the Millbank Theatre in Rush as often as possible.

“We would do things in class that allowed us to be creative, often in ways that teachers at that time simply didn't do. She fostered my love of English and developed it in so many ways.”

Claire Duffy was also the school's public speaking and debating coach. There were mock debates weekly and “people with an interest in debating or public speaking could come and take part, or simply listen. I started going in First year and went every week until I left the school. When I made the team in TY, and we started to go further in competitions, the weekly meetings became daily.”

This was done on her own time “never blinking at what she must have been giving up in order to help us that little bit further. Ms. Duffy only taught me English for Junior Cycle, but ended up teaching me, really, throughout my time there.”

Rob went onto to study English and History in college and became a teacher himself.

He had a year-long placement in his old school as part of his teaching qualification. “I worked alongside Ms. Duffy then, and I remember one day having one of my English classes debate against hers, which felt like somewhat of a full circle moment.”

His career took him away from teaching but, “every single day I use the basics she 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. She sparked a love for English and communication that's informed every career move I've made, every education decision I've taken and much more besides. I was very fortunate overall with the teachers I had, but no more so than with her.”

What has also stayed with him is the importance of paying it forward. “At so many times in our lives, teachers and other people close to us do remarkable, selfless things for us. It's important that we do the same for others, and hopefully then these seemingly isolated gestures become a norm.”

Stories of inspirational teachers