Teachers Inspire Ireland 2019

What is abundantly clear from the nominations received is the extent to which so many teachers go above and beyond their ‘job description’.

Teachers Inspire shortlist highlights role of teachers in addressing societal challenges

DCU announces 20 teachers shortlisted from over 400 entries received

Twenty teachers from across Ireland were announced by DCU today (16.09.19) as the shortlisted teachers for the inaugural Teachers Inspire Ireland initiative.

The initiative, which is focused on highlighting the enormous contribution made by teachers in Irish society, was launched by DCU earlier this year, with the support of businessman and philanthropist Dermot Desmond.

Earlier this year, DCU called for members of the public to share their personal stories of how a teacher transformed their lives and / or their community. The 20 teachers announced today – five from each province – have been shortlisted from over 400 entries received from every corner of Ireland. None of the teachers knew they were nominated in advance.

Societal Impact

Announcing the shortlist today, Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU, said: “The entries submitted to Teachers Inspire Ireland demonstrate just how significant a role teachers play in Irish life.

“We received stories about teachers dealing in an inspirational way with major societal challenges. We received stories of teachers who have played – and continue to play – a key part in helping individuals and whole communities adapt to change.

“The nominations highlighted teachers dealing with issues such as homelessness, mental health, immigration, unplanned pregnancies, gender identity support, community regeneration, and climate change. They were submitted by schoolchildren, parents, and people whose schooldays are long behind them but who remember their teachers with great fondness and gratitude.

“What is abundantly clear from the nominations received is the extent to which so many teachers go above and beyond their ‘job description’. It was extraordinarily difficult to select a shortlist of 20 from all the amazing stories we received. However, the 20 teachers being celebrated today have had truly lasting and transformative impacts on the lives of their students and on their wider communities.”

Shortlisted Teachers

The Teachers Inspire shortlist is as follows:


  • Sandra Carroll, a teacher at Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew, Co. Galway, who was nominated by one of her current students, Abbie Buchan.
  • Seamas Cassidy, Tuam CBS. A former Christian Brother, Seamas was nominated by Liam Moggan, whom he taught in the 1970s and who considers him a friend to this day. During Seamas’s time as a teacher, timetables in the local convent schools were adapted so that girls could access his Honours Maths classes – an option unavailable to them in their own schools.
  • Elaine O’Malley, Acting Principal at Merlin Woods Primary School in Galway City. Elaine was nominated because of the support she provided for a family in the school who became homeless last year.
  • Declan Quinn, Principal of Dunmore Community School, Co. Galway. Declan was nominated by the parent of a student who experiences mental health difficulties and who has been strongly supported by Declan.
  • Teresa Toolan, a retired teacher, who taught at Mullaghroe National School in Sligo. Teresa was nominated by Frances Dodd, whom she taught when Frances was in fifth and sixth class. Frances herself went on to pursue a career in education, and has been a teacher for over 30 years.


  • Mary Daly, recently retired from St. Dominic’s College in Ballyfermot. Mary was nominated by her former student, Niamh Smith, for her impact on individual students and the wider community. While Mary still taught at St. Dominic’s, Niamh returned to the school to work in its after-school programme and, encouraged by Mary, went on to study Community and Youth Work at Maynooth University. Niamh is now Project Leader of a youth service in Ringsend.
  • Nora Duffy, a retired teacher, who taught at St. Joseph’s Co-Educational National School on the East Wall Road in Dublin. Originally from Co. Donegal, Nora was nominated by her past pupil Caitríona Ní Cassaithe, who – inspired by Nora – went on to purse a career in education herself.
  • Ann Moriarty, a teacher in the FET (Further Education and Training) sector, who was nominated by Phyllis Lawlor. Phyllis is in her 70s and credits Ann with opening up “a whole new world of wonder” for her, after she completed courses taught by Ann on how to use smart devices.
  • John O’Brien, who taught at St. Patrick’s National School on Rutland Street in inner-city Dublin (now Rutland National School). John was nominated by Paddy Reid, whom he taught in the 1960s and who describes him as “the most important role model for many of us kids from the Dublin tenements”. Of the 20 teachers shortlisted for Teachers Inspire, John O’Brien is the only one who has not (yet) been traced. His nominator Paddy was unable to find current contact details for him, but believes he retired some time ago and now lives in Spain.
  • Anne Savage, recently retired principal of Scoil Chaoimhín Naofa, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, whose nomination was a combined effort, featuring video testimonials from current and former students Harry Conroy, James Kelly, Clark Kelly and Amelia Kelly; parent Elaine Conroy; Anne’s nephew, Denis Savage; and her Scoil Chaoimhín Naofa colleagues Siobhán Parsons and Elaine O’Brien.


  • Jim Collins, who retired as Principal of Iniscealtra National School in Mountshannon, Co. Clare last year. He was nominated by Roisin Bugler, who attended the school in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In her nomination, she commended Jim for encouraging his pupils to pursue science experiments, grow their own vegetables and flowers, set up savings accounts, and participate in exchanges with his former school in Dublin (“exchanges between the Clare culchies and the Dublin jackeens”). She also credits him as the driving force behind Scariff Bay Community Radio.
  • Donal Enright, a teacher at Desmond College, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick. He was nominated by former student Jack O’Connor for his work in coaching students for the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition; and for his promotion of an entrepreneurial and humanitarian spirit amongst his students.
  • Cora McElligott, a teacher at Mercy Mounthawk Secondary School in Tralee. She was nominated by one of her recent students, Trevor Leen, who completed his Leaving Cert this year. In his nomination, Trevor highlighted how Cora goes above and beyond in supporting students at Mercy Mounthawk, and has played a key role in promoting mental health awareness in the school.
  • Jehr O’Donoghue, now retired, who was a teacher at Sliabh Luachra Secondary School in Rathmore, Co. Kerry (formerly St. Mary’s Secondary School). He was nominated by his former student Joan Cronin. Jehr was a founder of the Social Action Group in Rathmore, which – according to Joan – over the last 45 years “has transformed the rural community to a vibrant, social active place for young and old”.
  • Sinead O’Mahony, who teaches at the Mid West School for the Deaf in Limerick. Sinead was nominated by Rachel Broderick, the mother of Daniel, one of her young pupils.


  • Lorna Barron, Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, Co. Donegal. She was nominated by current student Alannah Bradley, who describes her as “a valuable asset to Scoil Mhuire for the past 25 to 30 years”.
  • Denise Dowds, also teaching at Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana. She was nominated by Marie Barr for her work on promoting climate action, amongst other reasons. Marie, who is a current student at Scoil Mhuire, describes her as a “climate hero”.
  • Ann Gallen, who was Principal of Cortober National School in Cavan, which closed in 2015. She was nominated by past pupil Kevin Gormley, who says she was his inspiration for becoming a primary-school teacher himself and, subsequently, for pursuing his career in teacher education.
  • Kelly Loughran, Beech Hill College, Monaghan. She was nominated by Dylan Woods – who completed his Leaving Cert at Beech Hill College earlier this year – for the support she gives to individual students and the wider school community.
  • Fr. Sean Nolan, St. Macartan’s College, Monaghan. He was nominated by Enda Timoney, whom he taught in the 1970s. Encouraged by Fr. Nolan to participate in handball coaching courses, Enda went on to become a PE teacher, working in Tallaght for 36 years. Enda now travels the country taking photos of old handball alleys as part of a heritage project, and he visits his former teacher when he can.

Entries to Teachers Inspire were reviewed by a panel chaired by former President of Ireland Mary McAleese.

A Teachers Inspire Ireland gala event will take place at The Helix, DCU, on Friday, 4th October, at which four of the shortlisted teachers – one from each province – will receive the inaugural Teachers Inspire Ireland Desmond Awards.

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