Múinteoirí a Spreagann Éire 2019 2019
Teachers inspire selection4

In my lifetime, I've met many great teachers at university, as well as at various art courses afterwards, but she stands out as being transformative, because of teaching us practical skills for life.

The Teachers Inspire campaign received hundreds of excellent nominations for teachers from right across Ireland. Stories of inspiring teachers both past and present were shared, with insights into the positive effect they had had. Not all submissions were eligible to make it through to the next round of judging, but we felt some of these stories were too important not to share.

Nomination for the late Sr Auxilio, from Convent of Mercy, Athlone, Co Westmeath. Submitted by Clare Brophy.

This nun taught me sewing for 5 years at secondary school. I learnt to use a sewing machine, cut out patterns and alter them, and choose a style to suit me! We made a "garment" a year.

We learned everything from inserting a zip, to complicated types of buttonholes; from interfacing lapels, to pockets. Complex stuff, that only later does one realise how good she was! She taught us all about the different types of hand-stitching too, building on what we had learned in primary school.

She managed 30 of us each making a different "garment" and using machines and needles. We were not easy! Some had no talent at all, others had no interest, or were just plain giddy.

I am so grateful, as over the years, I have saved money making my own and my kids' clothes, not to mention altering off-the-peg shop clothes, as I am not a standard size; I've made curtains and cushions for my house; I am good at identifying and choosing fabrics: thanks to Sr Auxilio.

After a career as a teacher of English myself, I am now making silk and merino wool scarves which I sell, because she turned me into an artist, truly!

In my lifetime, I've met many great teachers at university, as well as at various art courses afterwards, but she stands out as being transformative, because of teaching us practical skills for life.

I find myself 50 years on, still saying the little prayer she made us say before we cut the fabric into its parts for a "garment": "A Mhuire, gabh mo lámh, i do lámh", ('Mother Mary, take my hand in your hand')

I suppose, subconsciously, through Sr Auxilio, I learned that a good teacher needn't be particularly popular, or a close friend, to be an excellent teacher. She was well prepared for her class, and she seemed to recognise the individual talent and skill each of us had, and she fostered that, while being patient with those who were finding it hard. It was difficult in an era of post-war poverty in small town Ireland, with no arts heritage and without art recognised as a subject in the school. But I can truthfully say she was influential and empowering. She did her very best for us. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhilis! Thank you, Oxo!


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