Teachers Inspire Ireland 20222023
TI Podcast Ep5

2022 Podcasts

Wherever you are in the world, you can nominate a teacherEpisode 5, Rob O’Hanrahan

Virgin Media journalist Rob O’Hanrahan chats to Louise about why he nominated his former teacher at Skerries Community College. He had been a shy student yet with her support he took up public speaking and learnt skills that he still uses. Rob is also a teacher and he tells Louise about teaching before he went into journalism.

He says teachers worked ten times harder during the pandemic and he explains why it is important “to take the time” to nominate a teacher who had an impact on you.

Claire Duffy, who was Rob’s English teacher, went on to be a Teachers Inspire awardee for 2021, as a result of being nominated by him.

Don’t forget nominations are still open for 2022.

Teachers Inspire 2022 is now open for nominations at https://www.teachersinspire.ie...

Nominating a teacher, whether primary or secondary, is done by filling in a form on teachersinspire.ie.


Louise:
Hello, and welcome to the Teachers Inspire podcast for 2022 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, teachers inspire.ie.

Every year, there are four teachers who receive a Teachers Inspire award. Last year one of those was Claire Duffy. She was nominated by Rob O’Hanrahan, who was taught by Claire up to third year in Skerries Community College. But her influence went beyond that.

Rob is one of hundreds of people to nominate a teacher for Teachers Inspire award since it began in 2019. And he joins me now. Hello, Rob.

Rob:
Hiya, Louise. How are you?

Louise:
It’s very nice to see you.

Rob:
Very nice to see you too.

Louise:
People listening might know that you work with my partner. So off-air I was trying to get all of the gossip, you know, the kind of what people are saying about him in the workplace. But you were very discreet Rob, but you weren't giving me anything!

Rob:
What happens on Virgin Media literally goes out live three times a day! [Laughter by Rob and Louise!]

Louise:
Well welcome to the Teachers Inspire podcast. I really loved your entry, so I'd love to hear just a little bit more about that, about you know, your relationship with Claire Duffy. And I suppose, you know, why did you decide that you wanted to nominate her?

Rob:
One of the biggest reasons I decided to nominate Claire was actually a whole other teacher, it was kind of interesting, which was because I had …a I've been very, very lucky in primary and secondary school, to have had numerous teachers who went above and beyond.

There were probably five or six teachers who I could have nominated and one of them was a teacher I had in fourth class who was one of those teachers who had an ability to pinpoint every child in the class - and this is like class of 32 kids - what their passion was, what they love doing, and managed to cultivate that while also doing all the things that a teacher is supposed to do in fourth class.

He used to read the math reports I'd write at the weekend, he used to .. I remember him encouraging me to enter an essay competition and I wrote what must have been a dreadful fawning essay over Shay Given because it was entitled My Hero! [laughter]

And he's one of those teachers who we would still talk about, the few of us who are still friends from that class. He sadly passed away two years ago, and he lived in the town. I saw him a couple of times when I was an adult and I realised that I had actually never taken the time to thank him or to, I suppose express just how much of an impact he had on me and I know one others in that class as well.

So when I was sitting in work, on a lunch break, it was during a time, from what I remember, where I was in the office every day, because it was how we had split the time between because COVID was so bad at the time that we were trying to keep everyone as safe as possible so the numbers in the office were really limited.

I was one of them who was in, so (at) your lunch breaks you were sitting at your desk. You had nothing to do and you were trying to get away from what was kind of happening in the wider world. And Teachers Inspire literally popped up on my Twitter feed one of the few times that site has done any good!

Louise:
Did Richard retweet it, was that where you saw it?!

[laughter from both]

Rob:
I remember kind of thinking to myself ‘take the time’, because it was, it was 45 minutes to write the entry.

Claire was the first teacher that came into my head and even when I took the time to kind of think down through it and, like I said, I was fortunate enough (that) there could have been three or four other teachers as well..

Just the impact that she had on me in three years she taught me, inside and outside of the classroom, and then going forward into Senior Cycle completely outside the classroom. And I'm a qualified teacher as well; I went back and I did my years training, my years practical training, in the community college (Skerries).

I worked under another former English teacher of mine, another English teacher but I also did a couple of things with Claire as well.

Louise:
So full circle moment.

Rob:
Yeah, it did feel like that. And it was also, I suppose, something for me where a teacher who has that kind of impact on you, which I genuinely think for most people, they do have one, and so often, when people talk about teachers, they talk about their bad ones.

That having an opportunity to talk about someone who did have an impact, was brilliant at what she did, and genuinely as I say, I think in the entry, had a part in moulding some of the skills that I still use today.

Louise:
Like what?

Rob:
so she was the public spee ching coach – look at that -

Louise:
She taught you really well [laughter by them].

Rob:
Is that an oxymoran?! [laughter]. She was the public speaking coach, and I loved the idea of public speaking.

Now, I remember thinking at the time was a little bit ironic, like, I mean, for those that know me, like, I'm actually quite shy, I’m quite introverted and I don't think that comes across very often.

And it's a complete paradox to what the two careers that I have I've done, but and also to the fact that I did love the idea of public speaking, I never got nervous doing it, I thought it was really cool this idea that like a room of people had to listen to what you say! [laughter]

I remember hearing an announcement about it over the school tannoy and I asked Claire Duffy about it and she said, there's no, there's no Junior cycle students there, you're more than welcome to come along and maybe others will come along as well.

But just so you know, but I went and went in first year, I went into second year and went in third year. And then going on into TY (Transition Year), fifth and sixth year then senior cycle students could enter the competitions that were there, the national ones.

I remember we went to like the national semifinals of the Mental Health Ireland competition. And that for me, it was just this incredible experience where I learned about speech writing, I learned about delivering a speech, working in a team, all these kinds of things like that, like I literally use when I went into the classroom, and then obviously, in my day to day job, when I stand in front of a camera and have to speak like, you know,

Louise:
it’s a fairly important part of the job alright.

Rob:
Public speeching is very

Louise and Rob: [
Laughter from both.]

Louise:
Have you spoken, I mean, obviously, she knows that you nominated her, and like, I always wonder like, what that must be like for a teacher like what was her reaction when she heard it?

Rob:
You know, I often think that the teachers who win Teachers Inspire, never think that they will be nominated. And Claire was definitely one of those.

I couldn't make the ceremony that was held in the school. I actually had COVID at the time, which was really like frustrating for me, because I was really looking forward to going back to my old school and seeing Claire.

She reached out to me on Facebook and messaged me, and she was just so bowled over by the, just by the accolade and I think just by the idea that someone who like she taught me 2004-2007. So like, that's 15 years ago, which I hate saying.

Louise:
You are so young!

Rob:
I'm so glad you're saying that cos I feel so old!

[laughter from both.]

Rob:
That was something where I was kind of like she, you know, likely had kind of,, she had retired, I think at that point, just retired at that point, which I didn't realise. So like, what a way to kind to crownoff a career in school. So I think she was really shocked.

But like I say, I just think that.. I guarantee the other three teachers who won last year were incredibly shocked as well.

Louise:
And do you think you know, I mean, I'm interested in the fact that you were a teacher, yourself, and I suppose this is kind of a two-pronged question, I suppose first of all, did her influence have anything on you you know, was that anything to do with your decision to become a teacher? And I suppose the second part is, as a former teacher, I suppose maybe do you think these awards are important? And why?

Rob:
did it influence me becoming a teacher? It influenced me when I became a teacher… I think you like any teacher, will take so much of what they loved in teachers themselves.

In terms of becoming a teacher, I had no idea I wanted to be a teacher probably until three years into my teaching career… I was one of those students who had no idea what they wanted to do when I left school. I did arts I studied English and history

Louise:
So did I! A really useful degree

Rob:
Yeah, those Bachelors of Arts!

[laughter]

And kind of that was it. I was like, in second year, I was like, I need to kind of like well, like what do I actually want to do? I kind of toyed with journalism and a few other kinds of bits and pieces. And then I realised that I actually really liked it and I was giving grinds at the time and I was like, I actually really like doing this.

Louise:
What about it do you like?

Rob:
I just loved the idea that you can take something that you're incredibly passionate about and force people to try and like it! [laughter from both]

You know, the one of the things that I loved about it was, the way the curriculum works. Like you teach the same texts every year, a lot of the time, and some of them do change, but quite often, like your core texts stay the same.

And some of them are ones you've studied yourself. I remember going to Romeo and Juliet for the first year in my teaching career, I'm like, I had done it myself for Junior Cert, I was in a dreadful production of it myself.

Louise:
What role did you play?

Rob:
I was Romeo.

Louise:
Of course you were! I knew it!

[laughter from both]

Rob:
Like so much of the script, I knew the story inside out, but I remember going in to teach it with a group of second years and they just saw it in a completely different way. And it's the same every year, every class would take something different out of it, that idea that a text that's centuries old is still alive, because different people read different things into it.

That like, that kind of thing, or just even the idea of like, you take kids who are genuinely passionate about your subject, and there was always kids in in a class who love English.

I just remember thinking I was that kid. I loved English. And for me, it was more than a subject it was, you know, it was a creative outlet, it was a solace, it was so many things to me.

So that idea that then you knew that you had a few of those kids in your class, whatever about the kids who, who were there because they have to be there, because it's a compulsory subject, you know, and that's part of it, as well as the challenge of trying to get those kids interested as well in the kids who literally could not care less, (and) trying to get them interested as well.

Yeah, that's like, for me, that's what I that's what I loved about teaching - physically being in a class for 40 minutes, trying to get as many kids as interested as possible in what something that I love doing.. And that would be the main thing that I miss about it.

Louise:
Yeah, yeah. And I suppose I mean, like, it has been such a challenge. You said you left teaching three years ago?

Rob:
Yes. Yeah.

Louise:
So I was going to say, you weren't there during COVID, because I feel that obviously was, like such a huge challenge for so many teachers. And I think that's why this initiative (Teachers Inspire), I think, has been so meaningful over the last couple of years because it's like, I think, of course, we should, you know, recognise the importance of what teachers are doing all of the time, but I think having gone through such a difficult experience, and really just doing their best to make sure that no student falls through the cracks, sort of ‘on their watch’, I think now more than ever, like these awards feel really important.

Rob:
Yeah, I think absolutely. I know myself, I talked to so many teachers and principals and parents, during the COVID lockdowns when, when schools were online learning only, or even when it looked like schools would again go back to online learning only, and that was that phrase, ‘online learning’ was so important, because people kept saying schools are shut and I was like ‘they're not.’

Any of the teachers I spoke to, I know they worked 10 times harder, because that's what they had to do, in terms of trying to keep kids engaged in terms of like trying to, like, if you think of have some schools would have massive online capabilities than they would like kids would have iPads, and kids would have Wi Fi at home.

And then you also have on the completely other end of the spectrum, where if the kids were lucky, there was a laptop between three or four students in the house, and no guarantee of Wi Fi, and all those kinds of things.

So I know for a fact that teachers worked incredibly hard during those periods when a lot of people probably thought that they weren't working at all.

So I think the idea of Teachers Inspire is brilliant, because, like I said earlier on, so often what we hear about teaching is negative .

Louise:
Yeah

Rob:
and when we hear a headline, it is often negative and there may be a perception about teachers that is in the wider community and in the wider public that does not reflect the incredible work that so many do. And the times that are taken out at the end of a class that seeps into a break-time, a 10 minute break that then doesn't exist, or a lunch period that's handed over to do an extracurricular activity or taking up an extra essay from a student who's trying to do to get better at what they're doing.

All those things that are part of the job that are completely unseen by so many people. So, the idea that you can take the time to recognise bar like probably 1000s of teachers around the country who should have one of these sitting on their mantle, you know, I think it is really important, and I also realise that you asked me this question previously in a two-pronged question, and I actually didn't answer. When people do that to me, I go mad.

Louise:
Laughter! Well, you answered it beautifully there. So you would recommend you know, having been someone who has nominated a teacher, you know, you would recommend anyone listening to nominate their teacher? That is a leading question I think!

Rob:
Absolutely. It is so important because like education is something that everyone has in common.

Everyone had a Junior Infants teacher, everyone had one right the way through primary school, everyone had seven or eight or nine teachers a year from first to fifth year or whatever, what people do these days. It's so important that if you had a teacher that had an impact on you who, who took the time to foster something in you, who tried to make you a better student, or even a better person, or who even just asked you at one point in your student life, is everything okay.? Maybe thinking just about how much they impacted you and putting that down..

Louise:
Rob, thank you so much for coming in today and talking to us. I really appreciate it.

Rob:
I'm delighted to be here. Thank you.

Louise:
Rob, thank you for joining me on the Teachers Inspire podcast and telling me about why you nominated your former teacher, Claire Duffy.

I think it will be nice to hear from Claire now. Teachers Inspire visited her and, accepting her award, she said the teachers play an important role in the lives of young people. And they can help them discover what life can hold.

Claire Duffy:
I think teachers and teaching is just absolutely vital. And teachers play a unique role in young people's lives, and they can engage to bring out the very best that they can be, to shine a light on who they are, what they can be what they can achieve.

And that's, that's an amazing privileged position to be in. Teachers can set their students on a lifelong journey of learning, of wisdom, creativity, fun, excitement, all the good things, you know, that life can offer. So, teaching is about, to me, shining a light and I mean to be/sound a little bit cliched, but, you know, teachers are the ones holding that lantern.

Louise:
That is so gorgeous. What a lovely reminder from Claire, and from Rob, about the inspiring work that teachers do in schools around the country every day.

At 17 and in her Leaving Cert year, Elaine Murray thought her lifelong dream of playing football in America was about to come true.

She had represented Ireland at under 15 and under 17 and her club team were top of the league. She also played for a school, Sacred Heart Secondary, Drogheda, county Louth.

She had been scouted and she had a full soccer scholarship ahead of her. She took a month off soccer to prepare for her Leaving Cert. But, in her first game back, she tore a series of ligaments including her anterior cruciate ligament, generally referred to as ACL.

She will never forget a doctor saying you'll have to hang up your boots, you'll never play again. At the time, she said it was the equivalent of a career ending injury, although now players can make a full recovery after surgery.

Her French teacher who also coached her in school soccer was Brid Fox. From her home in New Zealand, Elaine told Teachers Inspire why she nominated Brid Fox for the award last year.

Elaine:
The reason I nominated Brid was because she was the first teacher I thought off when I read the article on LinkedIn about nominating teachers who have inspired you.

From being my French teacher in first year to sixth year, she was so passionate about teaching the language, she wanted you to do well, she helped you do well.

Then the other side of it was she was also really involved in sports in the school and again, like that she wanted to do to do well, she was really passionate about sports.

And then I guess the biggest thing for me was that, then when things didn't go as I had planned them to do so in sixth year, she was there also as a person outside of the classroom, outside of the French teacher, she outside of that, well, probably part of the sports side of things.

She wrote me a letter and she told me to kind of pick myself up and dust myself down and other paths will.. there's other opportunities and you know, I just need to kind of go for things and not to shy away from them.

And by taking the time to actually reach out to a student in amongst a school full of students that she was also very supportive of, I think that just kind of hit home with me that yes, she did care.

And I guess as a teacher, you spend a lot of time with them and they have such a big influence on how your future is shaped and I don’t know whether they know that or not, but I think it's such a good opportunity to share it with them, that they really do have a big influence on a student's future.

By nominating her I hope that she knows that and also, the school recognises how good of a teacher she is, other students recognise of good, how good of a teacher she is. I'm sure everybody around does already do that. But I guess yeah, I just wanted to call it out. When I came across the article she was the first person that I thought of and yeah, I definitely think she's deserving of it.

Louise:
Brid encouraged her to look at other parts in life and sometimes, you need to make new things happen. Elaine is now living and working in New Zealand, and she did return to the pitch. Elaine also told us why she thinks celebrating teachers like Brid Fox is a positive thing.

Elaine:
I think it's good to celebrate teachers like Brid because it's an opportunity to acknowledge the impact teachers can have on students’ lives. Often it can shape our future and in my case, it certainly was it. It is education outside of the classroom. So for me it was Brid was my French teacher. She was also my soccer coach. But what she taught me was it was nothing to do with French or soccer. It was about life and about figuring things out and about choosing different paths. So, I think it's, it's such a good idea to acknowledge what impacts the teacher has and share them with the world and share them with other teachers because it also allows other teachers to realise actually, they can play a bigger role in a student's life that's outside of the classroom, and often that's the case, so it's good for it not to go unknown.

Louise:
I'm Louise O'Neill. And thank you for joining me for this episode of the teachers inspire Ireland podcast for 2022.

You can hear all of the episodes wherever you get your podcasts, and you can find out more and maybe tell us about a teacher that made a difference in your life at Teachersinspire.ie.

Until the next time..

Stories of inspirational teachers