Teachers Inspire Ireland 20232024
TI Podcast Ep14

2022 Podcasts

The DCU Teachers Inspire AwardeesEpisode 14, Gemma Maher, Joe McAndrew, Jennifer Hutton and Ruairi Farrell

For the final episode of this series the podcast comes to you from DCU, the home of Teachers Inspire. A special event was held there for the four teachers who are our Teachers Inspire awardees for this year at which Louise presented them with their award. The teachers are Gemma Maher from County Dublin, Joe McAndrew from County Mayo, Jennifer Hutton from County Carlow and Ruairi Farrell from County Wicklow.

Gemma and Jennifer were nominated by a parent while Joe and Ruairi were nominated by a former student. For this episode they tell Louise what it means to them to have been nominated and the positive impact the awards have.

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Hello, and welcome to the Teachers Inspire podcast. Organised and run by Dublin City University, Teachers Inspire is an Ireland wide initiative that seeks to celebrate teachers and to recognise the transformative role they play in our lives and in our communities.

My name is Louise O'Neill and I am delighted that I have been asked once again to curate, and share with you, the many uplifting stories about teachers who have made a difference in your life. Check out these stories and more on the website,Teachersinspire.ie

I am joining you today from Dublin City University - the home of Teachers Inspire.

And we're here because we held a very special event for the four teachers who are our Teachers Inspire awardees for this year.

I was delighted to get to meet them earlier and to present them with their awards.

The teachers are Gemma Maher, Dublin, Joe McAndrew, Mayo, Jennifer Hutton, Carlow and Ruairi Farrell, Wicklow.

Gemma and Jennifer were nominated by a parent while Joe and Ruairi were nominated by a former student. So, congratulations to all of them. We will talk in more detail to the awardees and their nominators for the podcast later this year.

But I did want to bring you a quick word from them just from today's event for this episode, our final one for the series.

[music fades up and down]

With me now is Jenny. Hello! Welcome to the Teachers Inspire podcast and congratulations on your award. It's so lovely to have you here and I'm really looking forward to hearing, I suppose what does it mean to you to have been nominated for this?

Well, I was completely shocked. As I've said, I didn't inspire any poets or CEOs, I just did my job and anybody in my position in my school would have done the same.

I teach and St Fiacc’s National School in Graigecullen and you know, we have a great atmosphere of, atmosphere of care in our school.

And we put the wellbeing of the child first and foremost and so to be acknowledged for looking after the children in my class is a real honour.

I'm really proud to know that what Christopher will take from my classroom is the time and the care I gave him above all else and that's really nice. But like I said, anybody in my school would have done the same.

It was a real honour personally, but also for my school. This year was a really tough year for my school: we lost a colleague, a teacher and a friend in March this year.

She just got sick in January and took a sick day like any teacher does.

But I suppose winning this award gives, it's a nice opportunity for me to acknowledge her, because she was our inspirational teacher.

Ms Aisling Nolan with her name. She was my own Junior Infant teacher and she was the reason I and many of my colleagues came back, well went into teaching in the first place, but came back to St. Fiacc’s because I attended school there too.

My principal recently described her as the heartbeat of our school, and it's so fitting, she cared so much about every child and parent, and teacher. And she was our own model and that's exactly what a teacher should be.

So, I suppose winning this is a lovely opportunity for me to acknowledge her, our own inspirational teacher, like I said, who we miss every day, but it also sheds some light on the wonderful atmosphere of care in my school.

You know, it's not just about academics, but it's about the development of the child as a whole and that doesn't happen with just one person. It happens, I suppose, it's a community effort.

We're really blessed to teach in a school that we all like, that I grew up in. And we have a great relationship with the parents and the kids and the parish priest. He's a good friend of ours. And, and he's really good to our school as well. So, it really is a community effort. And, and I'm really proud of our school. I'm blessed to work there. And this is a really nice thing for us to win.

[music fades up and down]

Now, we're joined by Joe. Welcome to the podcast, Joe. Tell me did you enjoy today's event?

I loved it. It's one of the best days I've had for a long, long time. And I met some very interesting people, which I don't get a chance of meeting at home, down in Mayo, don't see many because (there is) nobody left but here I had a great day today.

And, you know, I know in all my life I never thought this would happen to me above anybody, you know. So, it was a fantastic day and I thank Teachers Inspire for this because I think it's a great idea.

As a teacher we need a bit of praise now and again. Everybody needs praise and this is a way of acknowledging not just the teacher, an individual teacher, but the entire profession. You know, it does something to raise the profile of teachers, I think.

And tell me how did you find out that you had been nominated? And how like, how did you, what was your reaction? How did you feel?

Well, I’ll tell you how I found out. I got a phone call from Ann and Ann was at school, in my school, 33 years ago. That’s a long time.

And you know, in 33 years, she never forgot, (had) never forgot me. And I haven't been in touch with her for a long, long time.

The next thing, she rang me and said, ‘do you mind if I put you in?’ she says. She says (I’ll) reword that, I have put you in!

[laughter from both]

Ask for forgiveness afterwards! I said, okay, fire away. So that was the first I heard of it. And I honestly, I could not believe it because anything like that never happened to me before.

But anyway, I thought about it then and then I began to reflect on it a bit and I thought, well, this is a great idea and fair play to Teachers Inspire because it's something that is badly needed.

And teachers do such good work, and they never, they never get much praise. They get plenty of the other [laughter] but we're well used to that – but this was great I think and today was the culmination of this great idea coming together, yeah.

[short piece of music and then]

Hello, Gemma. Welcome to the Teachers Inspire podcast and congratulations on your award.

And I'm looking at it here - it's such a beautiful, just such a beautiful piece of art. So, I mean, what does it mean to you to receive this nomination and how did you find out about the nomination?

How does it feel? It's such a big question…

I got a phone call from the Teachers Inspire team who said was I aware that I had been nominated, and I had no idea I had been nominated.

So, shock, firstly, (and) overwhelm and then Imposter Syndrome, because you don't feel like you deserve it.

Then I spent about a week trying to figure out who had nominated me because nobody had come forward to say, ‘oh by the way, we nominated you for this award’, and (I) had to go through a few kids.

And even that was like God, maybe I do deserve this because there's like four or five kids that this could possibly have been, that meant so much to me…

And then finally Kirsten texted me to say, ‘did you get any phone calls this week?’

So, I knew immediately then that it was Kirsten and Olivia and I knew exactly why - we had a very special bond when I was teaching Olivia.

To find out you're nominated for what you feel is just doing your job but also knowing that you kind of knew in your heart (that) it was more than your job, because you cared about this kid, and you cared about this family, and you could see she was struggling and you want to do your best to help her and that. And it was a long road, like I was still in fifth class supporting Olivia through all of that. So, lots of feelings from start to finish.

And, I suppose, like what do you think has been the most important part of today, or even, you know, just I suppose the significance of the Teacher Inspire awards as a whole?

So, for me I think a lot of teachers feel especially at the moment that we get a bad rep.

And, I know you mentioned it at the event, that the long holidays and you know, short days, but you do a day in junior infants and you know why we have to!

Anybody who says that I just go ‘come, come work for me for a day and then tell me the same thing.’


I think that we don't have enough teachers at the moment and something like this is such a positive spin on our job for all the right reasons.

Like I looked at the other three nominees and their stories are so incredible and they're things that millions of teachers are doing around the world that aren't being recognised.

And I think that if we can put the positive out there, not always the negative, then it's a lovely way to showcase what this country is about. We are a nurturing country. We are a country who look after our own and this really highlighted the four nominees looked after our own at the time that they really needed it.

[music fades up and then down]

Welcome to the Teachers Inspire podcast Ruairi and we can see here you have your beautiful award next to you. So, when you go home now and you put your award on display, and every time you see it, and you think about it, like why do you think it's important for teachers to have their work, you know, recognised like this?

Yeah, I think it's as teachers, I suppose we're very much always promoting our students and celebrating their successes. And it's very seldom I suppose that we are recognised.

And look, I'm just one of thousands of teachers who make a difference in their classrooms every single day of the week.

But I think the award itself is, for me, it's a physical reminder to always be that champion for that child who needs that support. You know, be that role model, be that mentor, be that one good adult that every child needs in their lives.

And I think to have an award like this, to be presented at an occasion like this, it sends a strong message that teaching matters and the profession of teaching is, is very much valued, and that it's very important work, so it's lovely to be recognised at an event like this today.

And tell me when did you find out, when did you find out about the nomination and were you, were you surprised? How did you feel?

Yeah, absolutely. So, it was, I was very overwhelmed I think when I first got notification of the nomination.

Ciara, the past student who nominated me, I think I taught her nearly 15 years ago at this stage, so it was very much out of the blue.

But I think, you know, for her to tell such a personal story and for her to take time to put pen to paper to nominate me for this award really, really makes it makes it very, very special.

And I think today to be able to share that recognition with family and friends, it's very important because you know they know how much of our lives we dedicate to our jobs.

They know how committed we are to it. And they see us probably on the tough days when we go home and we've lots of things on our mind and things aren't going well. So, it's very special to be able to celebrate with family having been recognised for a Teachers Inspire award.

Before we go, I just want to thank everyone who took the time to make a nomination to Teachers Inspire 2022. We will open for submissions for 2023 later this year, and we will have another series of the podcast towards the end of the year.

So, remember that you can find out more about Teachers Inspire and links to other episodes of the podcast at Teachersinspire.ie and you can listen wherever you get your podcasts. Until the next time…

Stories of inspirational teachers