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Meg Offiah and Miriam O'Callaghan
Teachers Inspire awardee Meg Offiah with Miriam O'Callaghan, who MC'd the awards event in Albert College in Dublin City University Photo: Kyran O'Brien

"Teachers are at the very heart of communities across Ireland"

Four inspiring teachers from across Ireland received the prestigious Teachers Inspire Ireland Desmond Award. At a special ceremony in Dublin City University, hosted by RTÉ Broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan, Jill Farrell (teacher at St. Nessan’s National School, Mungret, Co. Limerick), Joe O’Driscoll (retired teacher from Carrigboy National School, West Cork), Meg Offiah (teacher at Our Lady of Mercy College, Beaumont, Dublin) and Ursula O’Mahoney (teacher at St. Senan’s National School, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford) were awarded for the inspirational role they played in the lives of their students.

Teachers Inspire is an Ireland-wide initiative that seeks to celebrate teachers and recognise the transformative role they play in our lives and in our communities. Acclaimed Author, Louise O’Neill, returned as this year’s curator and host of the Teachers Inspire Podcast where she spoke to influential educators such as Joyce Abbott, the woman who inspired the hit US series ‘Abbott Elementary’ and previous inspirational awardees. 

Louise said: “I am extremely proud to have curated and hosted the Teachers Inspire podcast over the past three years. I feel immensely privileged to have listened to, and shared, the stories of so many inspirational educators. Teachers put so much love and hard work into their jobs and have a huge impact on the lives of their students. I have seen first hand how they help to shape future generations, and every single teacher deserves to be recognised for the work that they do.”

The initiative is generously supported by a philanthropic donation from Mr. Dermot Desmond. Commenting on the initiative, 

Mr. Desmond said“I truly believe that teachers are the heroes of our society. Teachers had a profound impact on my own life, and the difference they make to the lives of children and young people across Ireland is nothing short of remarkable. I have been delighted to be able to support Teachers Inspire since its inception in 2019, and I would like to sincerely congratulate this year’s awardees and every teacher that was nominated.”

Teachers Inspire 2023 Awardees
(L-R) Teachers Inspire Awardees Joe O'Driscoll, Ursula O'Mahoney, Jill Farrell and Meg Offiah Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Professor Anne Looney, Executive Dean of Dublin City University’s Institute of Education, said: “Teachers Inspire celebrates and recognises not only the four fantastic awardees, but the wider teaching community across Ireland who work tirelessly to shape future generations. Teachers have an incredible impact on the lives of children and these awards shine a light on those who go above and beyond every day. Each season of the Teachers Inspire podcast has received a huge response and has helped to inspire the next generation of teachers, including the thousands studying with us in DCU Institute of Education.”

Speaking on Teachers Inspire, Professor Daire Keogh, President of Dublin City University, said: 

“Teachers are at the very heart of communities across Ireland, and DCU is extremely proud to be able to celebrate them through the Teachers Inspire initiative each year. The awardees, and every teacher that has been nominated, are representatives of the calibre of educators we are lucky to have in Ireland. Their passion and dedication cannot be underestimated, and I extend my congratulations to the four recipients of this year’s award.”

Louise O'Neill
Louise O'Neill speaking at the Teachers Inspire Awards Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Awardees stories

Jill Farrell (nominated by Justyna Justyna Brzezicka): Jill Farrell, primary school teacher at St. Nessan’s in Mungret, Co. Limerick was nominated by Justyna Brzezicka, mother of Jill’s past student Aimee, for the huge amount of support and compassion she showed both of them. When Justyna had some concerns about her daughter, Jill explained that “we need to give our children permission to be themselves and to explore the world in their own time, and not compare themselves to others.” She looked after her pupils’ wellbeing by organising yoga and mindfulness classes for them, and even got fitness superstar Joe Wicks to visit their school. Jill made such an impact that Justyna decided to go back to college to qualify as a Special Need Assistant - going on to work in Jill’s classroom as part of her in course. 

 

Joe O’Driscoll (nominated by Ellen Sommers): Joe O’Driscoll, a now retired teacher who taught at Carrigboy National School in West Cork, was nominated by a past student, Ellen Sommers. When Ellen was in primary school she struggled to fit in and often felt like an outcast. She recalls Joe helping her feel like she was enough and reminding her not to shrink herself for others, saying “I felt a constant whisper of ‘keep being you’ from him. When I left for secondary school, I remember crying to my mother because I was so scared of being bullied without his presence. He never forced me to play GAA or feel like I had to fit in. I was simply enough. That’s a lot for a teacher to give a 9 year old.” Ellen is about to graduate from a Masters at Columbia University and attributes a lot of her life and academic achievements to Joe.

 

Meg Offiah (nominated by Ryma Halfaoui): Meg Offiah, a teacher in Our Lady of Mercy College, Beaumont, Dublin, inspired a future teacher to “ be confident as a Muslim Algerian.” Ryma Halfaoui, who nominated Meg, explained that she helped her find confidence and become excited to come to school, as she was the only student from a different ethnic and religious background most of the time. Ryma says “she shared stories of when she first moved to Ireland and what her life is like now, she spoke about her children and made me feel like I could make it in a system I wasn’t quite sure how to navigate.” I was inspired by her at all times!” Ryma later became the first foreign national to do a Bachelor of Education in St. Pats.

 

Ursula O’Mahoney (nominated by Caroline Kennedy): Ursula O’Mahoney, previously a teacher at St. Senan’s National School, Enniscorthy now teaching  in Thurles, Tipperary, was nominated by Caroline Kennedy, mother of Aine, who sadly passed away at age five. Aine was non-verbal and had epilepsy and autism, and Caroline recalls how Ursula looked after Aine as if she was her own. Caroline says “I would often see Ursula sitting on the floor and laughing alongside Aine, and I often recall when Aine first met Ursula that she laughed. I think she was laughing at Ursula’s beautiful curly hair and when it bounced, Aine would have a fit of giggles. She was like a shining light for Aine.” At the time of Aine’s passing, the family were still processing the death of Aine’s older sister Aoife, who also passed away in 2006 when she was five years old. Ursula supported Aine and her family every step of the way, and had a beautiful memory book created for the family- something Caroline and her family will treasure forever. 

Teachers Inspire Awardees
(L-R) Dermot Desmond, Joe O'Driscoll, Miriam O'Callaghan, Ursula O'Mahoney, Louise O'Neill, Meg Offiah, Prof Anne Looney, Jill Farrell and Prof Daire Keogh Photo: Kyran O'Brien