Múinteoirí a Spreagann Éire 20232023
Leanne Mc Donagh Exhibition 020

She recalls sitting in Ms. Gubbins’ office and being told to close her eyes and dream.

Leanne McDonagh is an artist and educator who spoke at an event in DCU recently. When we heard her story of the teachers who inspired her, we felt it was perfect to share here…

As a 16 year-old Traveller girl, Leanne felt no desire to continue her education once she left school. Despite being more than capable, she truly believed she would never be hired in the type of job she wanted, due to the discrimination faced by Travellers.

Many of us can take education for granted, and most young people growing up in Ireland aspire to go on to further studies once they finish school. But Leanne didn’t consider college the rite-of-passage that many of a similar age would.

It was her teachers at Loretto Fermoy, who helped her to believe that this didn’t have to be the case. Leanne says one teacher, in particular, stands out for her from this time – Ms Gill Gubbins, her career guidance teacher.

There was one specific moment at school that shifted Leanne’s mentality, she says. She recalls sitting in Ms. Gubbins’ office and being told to close her eyes and dream. The teacher told her to imagine a world where anything was possible; where there were no obstacles; and to think about where she would like to be and what she would like to do in such a world.

Before that, Leanne had never imagined the possibilities or opportunities that might be available to her. But this sparked her ambition and forced her to consider the fact that she did have options.

Leaving Ms. Gubbins’ office that day, Leanne was armed with all the information she needed to become an Art teacher – the career she had imagined for herself, when prompted by Ms. Gubbins.

Once she completed her Leaving Cert, Leanne began practising art at Crawford College of Art & Design in 2007 and, five years later, she graduated with an Honours Degree in Fine Art, as well as a Higher Diploma in Art & Design Education.

Since graduating in 2012, Leanne has been back to Loretto Fermoy to teach art and has also held two of her own art exhibitions. She is currently working on a ‘% for Art’ scheme which will be permanently installed in Cork City early next year.

However, one of her main passions is working with young Travellers and helping to raise their hopes and ambitions. She was officially appointed as the Traveller Education Coordinator in CIT, where her work will involve inspiring the next generation of young Travellers.

It is amazing to see how the influence of one inspiring teacher – Ms. Gubbins – has now come full circle, with Leanne herself now inspiring young people every day through her role at CIT.

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