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Teacher Bios

Aidan Misteil
Gaelscoil Eanna
Primary Teacher

Bio: My name is Aodán Mistéil and I have been working for Gaelscoil Éanna for the past 4 years. I was raised as part of the Shaws Road Gaeltacht and I have always had a passion for the Irish language and for helping children. I am passionate about sport and ICT and I was overjoyed to be able to become the school’s ICT co-ordinator and to take our school’s football team for the past two years. After school training was a huge passion of mine and that has continued despite the Covid circumstances. I have organised online sport lessons for our school community to ensure our children could see a familiar face every day and have the opportunity to see their friends as well.

Prior to working as a teacher, I spent 3 years working as a special needs behaviour assistant. This job opened my eyes to the joys of education and working in that sector was a very fruitful experience for me on my teaching journey. I want to mould children academically, socially and personally to ensure they are an effective part of their community and are life-long learners. As my Grandad would say, Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.



Brian Mac An tSionnaigh
Coláiste Feirste
Gaeilge, English and Maths Teacher

Bio: I was born and raised in the St James’ area of West Belfast. I am a former pupil of Bunscoil Phobal Feirste and Méanscoil/Coláiste Feirste. I attended the University of Ulster in Coleraine where I completed my degree in Irish Language and Literature in 2013.I have been working in Coláiste Feirste since 2014. I am an active CLG player/coach in the community, a founder-member of Irish-speaking Gaeltacht quarter club, Laochra Loch Lao CLG since 2017 and I am also active in the Irish language revival in the city. I am a community youth leader and teacher with Glór na Móna. I am extremely privileged to be given the opportunities that I have in life and I hope that I can use my own knowledge and skills to inspire others.
Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí !

Caitlín Ritchie
Bunscoil Phobal Feirste
Primary Teacher

Bio: I have been teaching for 15 years, 13 of those in Bunscoil Phobal Feirste. I have always had great love and passion for the Irish language. I attended English medium schools as a child and was always somewhat jealous that I did not have Irish when I was younger. The language is what always motivated me in career choice. Both my parents worked very hard to ensure I had a good education.
My mother, who sadly died last year, was a true inspiration, a teacher herself in adult education. She taught me a lot, not so much professionally, but her love for life, her kindness and never-ending generosity will always drive me to be better.
I am married with 4 wonderful children at home and our little angel, Bláithín, in heaven. I also have 2 brothers and 1 sister and a fantastic extended family. My mother-in-law and my aunt, my mummy’s twin sister, who is like another mother to me, looked after Niamh, my eldest child to allow me to finish my degree. The unwavering support from my entire family has allowed me to develop into the teacher I am. Teaching isn‘t an easy job, but it is extremely rewarding.


Caitliín Ní Ruanaidh
Colaiste Feirste
History Teacher

Bio: My parents sent me to local naíscoil at the age of three, from there I went to Gaelscoil na bhFál and Coláiste Feirste (Meánscoil Feirste as it was known then). I went to the National University Ireland, Galway, to study history and Irish. I then went on to complete a Post-Graduate Diploma in journalism, in Connamara (NUIG).
From there I spent some time working in the Irish medium sector for organisations such as Nuacht 24, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, Cumann Cultúrtha Mhic Reachtain and InaG. I decided that this wasn’t for me, that I was a teacher through and through and I wanted to be in the classroom with the next generation of young Gaels. I went on to complete my PGCE in history at the University of Ulster and my TICO at St. Mary’s. I started my teaching career in Coláiste Oiriall, Monaghan. I spent two happy years there. I then went abroad to Qatar and worked as a primary school teacher.
I eventually landed my dream job, as a teacher in Coláiste Feirste. I am currently in my seventh year at Coláiste Feirste. I am the Acting Head of the History Department; I am the Teacher Tutor for newly qualified teachers (a post that I adore) and the newly appointed Learning Leader in the school. This new post was created by our brilliant Bord of Governors to help with the ongoing challenges of the current pandemic.
I was reared in the Short Stand. I am the third of five daughters. I would be lost without my brilliant family. Our house was always filled with love and support and plenty of laughter. I have a sister with Downs, Niamh and she is the beating heart of our clann. She has taught us so many lessons, compassion, patience, and love. I am the proud mamaí of Feilimí Óg (3), who now fills my own house with so much love and laughter.


Cara Gilleece
Malone college

I graduated from Queen’s with a BA(Hons) in French and Business, followed by a PGCE, as I was only ever interested in teaching.

I began my career teaching Irish and French but, realising the potential of IT I returned to study for a Master’s degree in IT at Aston University. On my return from Birmingham, I was delighted to secure a job at Malone College and have loved working as part of a fantastic team ever since.
Delivering high quality ICT is central to my teaching at Malone. I have worked hard to promote ICT and the opportunities and pathways it opens up for our young people. This approach equipped our staff and pupils to embrace the demands of the pandemic, leading to the Digital School Award in December 2020.
I’ve learned the importance of building resilience and stamina to survive the stresses and strains of teaching, never more so than during the current pandemic. I enjoy boxing with Mark and Ray at Tribe and yoga with the fabulous Paul Harnett. I am a keen runner, looking forward to The Craic 10K on St Patrick’s Day and returning to the beaches of Donegal in July with my family.



Christine Mhic Colain
Scoil Na Fuiseoige 
Primary 5 Teacher  

I am a Primary 5 Teacher in Scoil na Fuiseoige. I undertook a BA Honours degree in Irish and Celtic Studies at Queen’s University Belfast followed by an IME PGCE in Modern Languages. I have been teaching in Primary Schools for almost 12 years as a teacher but before that I spent my university years teaching music in schools and for community groups. I play Irish traditional music and I have been part of establishing a music school for young people through the medium of Irish, Cumann Ceoil na Fuiseoige, in Twinbrook. I have played music for over 20 years with groups such as Newcastle CCÉ, The Belfast Harp Orchestra, the Irish Entertainment Group and Royal Tara Dance Academy. I have travelled to many different countries around the world and have played in various venues including the Albert Hall in London. I have 3 wonderful children who have been keeping me on my toes as their mother and home school teacher this term. We are all members of our local GAA club, where I play senior camogie and help out with the juvenile camogie coaching. 



Clare Donnelly
Holy Trinity Primary School 
Special Needs and Music Teacher 

Clare trained in St. Mary’s University College and graduated in 1999 with a B.Ed. Hons with music. Outside of school she works as a busy choreographer and stage manager working all over Ireland. She enjoys working in musical theatre and opera. Her biggest achievement to date was managing to get Van Morrison on stage when he wasn’t in the mood. Clare started her career teaching in secondary as a teacher of music. In 2007 she began working in Holy Trinity Primary School as a music and special needs teacher and hasn’t looked back. Holy Trinity has been the perfect place for her to mix her passion for music and supporting the needs of children and parents equally as the SENCO. Clare considers herself lucky to work under the leadership of Fiona Boyd, without Mrs Boyd, Holy Trinity would not be the nurturing school that it is. We pride ourselves on being a staff that work hard and play hard, remaining good humoured during these difficult times. Clare is delighted to be nominated for this award; however, she feels that she can only accept it on behalf of all the staff in Holy Trinity as we are a close-knit team! 


Claire Boylan
Blessed Trinity College Belfast
Assistant Vice Principal

Bio: I have always wanted to be a teacher and follow in my parent’s footsteps. I have been teaching in North Belfast for 21 years. As soon as I qualified, I began teaching in Little Flower Girls’ school, as an RE teacher, and two years later I became the EMU Coordinator. I loved being involved in every part of school life, and as a young teacher I coached the school netball teams, earning places in NI Cup finals and Belfast Cup Finals, I also loved teaching the flute and helping with the school choirs. In 2010 I completed my PQHNI, which gave me the additional skills to become SENCO in 2011. This is when my passion for additional needs, ensuring each child achieves their full potential, supporting and leading teams of teaching and non-teaching staff was really developed. In 2014 as a member of SLT I became both SENCO and Pastoral Leader with responsibility for Child Protection and Safe Guarding. In 2016 Little Flower was amalgamated with St Patricks to become Blessed Trinity College, a vibrant amazing school, where I am an Assistant Vice Principal. I have been so lucky in my career to have worked with inspirational, dedicated people and for a fantastic community. It is through building strong links and positive relationships with the community, our families, and young people that I have had the most fulfilling rewards. During the present pandemic I have led a team dedicated to ensuring all families receive the best care, emotional and academic assistance they need. Without such a dedicated team, this support would not be possible.



Clare McAllister
St Michaels Nursery School 

Bio: After graduating from St Mary’s college, I started my teaching career in a P3 class in St Joseph’s PS Lisburn in 1995.I then moved to St Aloysius PS also in Lisburn and worked in many year groups developing my experience and interest in the early years. I became responsible for the nursery unit in 2006 and I then knew I had really found my niche! I took up post in St Michael’s Nursery school as principal in 2014 and have delighted in the children, staff, parents, and school community that I have worked with and for over the years. Everyone works so hard in St Michael’s and it’s such a team effort. The school goes from strength to strength with all that we have developed and enhanced to bring an exciting, motivating, and inclusive learning experience to our children. I am really proud of what we have achieved -making St Michael’s a great place to…”learn to play and play to learn.”

As a society we have all been challenged by this pandemic. Schools and principals have had to face almost insurmountable problems and challenges on a daily which has us falling to our knees…. but we are doing it! Through our own strength and determination, supported by invaluable colleagues and peers and by being listened to by our families we are pushing forward on a week to week basis. Look at what we are achieving! That is a lot to be proud of. Our lives in school have changed in ways we could never have imagined in the last year and indeed teaching and educating will change dramatically in the years to come to address the inevitable impact of the loss and trauma that we have all faced. We adapt, we change we keep moving forward. That is what we do.


Conor Kennedy
All Saints College  
Politics & Teacher with responsibility for newcomers. 

Upon completion of a BA (Hons) in Humanities I volunteered as human rights research intern in Relatives for Justice, working on behalf of those affected by state violence. Formalising this work by undertaking a master’s degree in Human Rights Law through QUB led to a research post within Queen’s, working toward presenting our team’s findings at UN level. In order to fund my LLM, I became a substitute teacher in CBS Glen Road, and through happy accident discovered a love for teaching.

I left CBS to manage, develop and teach in a charitable EOTAS project educating pupils who had disengaged from mainstream education. The role married education with social justice, rights based research and lobbying to effect meaningful change for disadvantaged and excluded pupils. I returned to CBS, now All Saints College, in 2017, working during the summer months for two years in Conway Education Centre as a coordinator of the Refugee/Asylum-Seeker Summer Programme laying the foundation for my current role within ASC working alongside our newcomer pupils. 
In my spare time, I volunteer as a film-maker for Féile an Phobail and the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts and I run a lot to keep my own head straight! 


Deborah McCann
St John The Baptist Primary School
S.E.N Assitant

Bio: I started in St John the Baptist as a volunteer when my youngest son was ready for nursery and after completing my qualifications for an S.E.N assistant I always wanted to get back working with children when I had the time give again. I very quickly realised that this was what I wanted to do and had found the perfect school community to grow with in St John the Baptist P. S.
It is where I continue to enjoy my career and have seen our school stick together to get us, and our children through the hardest challenge yet in this current pandemic. In March when we were left with some uncertinty that I witnessed our dedicated staff work hard to help guide and prepare the children and their families as best we could through this new adventure. I played my part by helping in any way I could from helping teachers make up learning packs, to adding in their favourite colouring sheet just to help after a long day. I loved catching up with children who might need it with weekly zoom calls, just to see how amazing they are adapting to home school life! Our school has always remained open to key worker and vulnerable children throughout this pandemic and I with other staff members continued to come to work to supervise the children and provide a friendly face each day. During the summer when most schools where closed we kept our doors open for a few extra weeks and myself and few other staff members continued to come in to prepare to have the school ready for the children by painting inspirational quotes along our school corridors to welcome them back! “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think” is my favourite. I am inspired by all of the hardworking staff in our school that have kept going through this very different school year and how we and the children have tackled it together


Deborah Carson
St Teresa’s Nursery School
Nursery Teacher

Bio: I’m a very normal girl who loves the simple things in life, my family and friends mean the absolute world to me. I have 3 nephews and 1 niece who are amazing! I’ve always known I wanted to work with children in some way or setting, leading to my further education in Belfast met and then Stranmills university. This provided me with some very fortunate opportunities in several schools that have helped me along the way to get to where I am now, in which I am very grateful for. I have had the chance to help some amazing young children and learn from them. Further to this, I have had the privilege to work alongside some amazing people and hope that my path on this journey continues.


Deborah Sweeny
Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School
Primary 7 Teacher

BIO: I have been a primary school teacher for almost 20 years, and I have been privileged to teach a lot of fantastic children in that time. I have also reached that stage where children that I once taught are coming back as young adults to do work experience. While on one hand that makes me feel really old, it is also great to know that I can continue to be a help to them with their education and career path.

The things that are important to me in life are faith, family and friends. I feel lucky to be a catholic teacher and helping children with their faith development is the most important part of my job. Knowing that the children have a strong, secure faith to help them though times has been vitally important during this pandemic. Faith is “calm within, regardless of the storm” and that’s what I want for all of my pupils.

I also have two teenage sons and music is a big part of our family life.


Dylan Sloan
Hazelwood Integrated College
School Social Worker Pastoral Care

Bio: Hello, my name is Dylan Sloan; I am currently exploring PhD opportunities in the field of Social Work with a research focus on School Social Work and educational outcomes for vulnerable students. I have completed by BSc (Hons) Social Work Degree in Ulster University. More recently, I have completed my MSc in Behaviour Analysis at Queen’s University, Belfast. I am currently co-developing School Social Work in Northern Ireland and practicing as a School Social Worker in a post-primary school, Hazelwood Integrated College. I have always had an interest in blending both Social Work and Education together to create a brighter future for our young people. As a result of this passion, I have founded the NI School Social Work Network (NISSWN). I cannot express how much I love my job; it places relationships at the centre of Pastoral Care. I have the privilege of sharing the journey, celebrating success and supporting the students in all areas from academic attainment and achievement to social, emotional and mental wellbeing.

I have a strong passion for supporting Care Experienced Young People within education. I have the honour of working alongside some inspirational young people in my post. They inspire me on a daily basis, and this prompted me to turn my desire of fostering into action. As a result, I have recently became a foster carer and I am so excited to embark on this new adventure.

I am also the Program Director of an incredible summer camp in the United States supporting individuals with disabilities/different abilities across the lifespan to cultivate their talents in a safe, fun and therapeutic environment. This is another huge interest of mine; working to create a world that has equal opportunities and supports equity for all.


Emma Beattie
Wheatfield primary school
Acting Principal

Bio: I’m 30 years old and I am currently in my 7th year of teaching, having started my career just outside London back in 2013. I have been acting principal for over 2 years at Wheatfield primary and nursery school and can’t imagine doing anything else.

I’m a dog-mum to a big golden retriever named Sam and I love nothing more than clearing my head with well spent puppy cuddles. I’m an introverted – extrovert (if that makes sense) and a people person, or so I’m told. I haven’t quite found the balance to work and play but at this point I thrive on the busyness coming from my job, so it works for me. Dedicated, enthusiastic and passionate about my people. I’ve found my tribe and we’re building an empire! Watch this space.


Emma McCully
All Saints College
SEN and Languages Teacher

Bio: This is my eleventh-year teaching in West Belfast, and it has been a challenging and rewarding experience. I began my teaching career in CBS teaching languages and volunteering in the Special Needs department, having always had an interest in helping those who are more vulnerable in society. Throughout my teaching career, I have been thankful for my colleagues who have mentored and led me and have in many cases become close friends.
In All Saints College, I have had the privilege of being appointed Assistant SENCo, which has been an invaluable experience. I have just completed my Pathways to Leadership course with the Education Authority and hope to continue my professional journey and continually improve upon my classroom practice.
I hope that during my career my work will continue to benefit the children and wider community. I am privileged to do the job I do and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work within such a wonderful profession and with the young people of West Belfast.


Emma McGuigan
Ballymacward Primary School
Primary School Teacher

Bio: I graduated from St Marys University Belfast in July 2010, with a 2.1 classification in a BA Liberal Arts Degree in Physical Education. In September 2010, I started a Special Needs Classroom Assistant post in St Genevieves High School, where I worked for five years. It was then that I realised that I wanted to pursuit a career in teaching and applied for a place on the PGCE in Ulster University, Coleraine.
I have been taught by some of the most amazing teachers, in both St John the Baptist Primary School and St Geneveivies High School were i attended as a pupil. They were my inspiration to become a teacher. I dream to the have same impact that they had on me, to the children I teach.
Over the past five years I have been incredibly fortunate to teach in Ballymacward Primary School. I teach a composite class of Primary 4 and 5 children. I am currently the PE, World Around Us, and ICT coordinator.
I work with the most amazing colleagues who have supported, inspired, and shaped me as a teacher. I am forever indebted to the pupils, parents and all the staff of Ballymacward Primary School.
I feel privileged to have the opportunity to help our children on their educational journey, wherever that may take them, and I hope that they look back with happy memories and a sense of achievement.


Fiona George
Gaelscoil ma Móna 
Foundation Stage Teacher  

I grew up in North Belfast and attended Mercy Primary School and then Dominican College, Fortwilliam. It was at Fortwilliam that I discovered my passion for the Irish Language. I was taught Irish by Mrs. Semple and Mrs. McGrath – both inspirational teachers who encouraged me to go to the Gaeltacht and to continue to study Irish. I completed a B.Ed IME at St. Mary’s University College in 2010 and have been teaching in the Irish Medium sector since. Now in my 8th year teaching at Gaelscoil na Móna, I’ve had the opportunity to teach some of the most resilient and brilliant young people, who make me laugh every day. 


Fiona McGoldrick
Lough View Integrated Primary School
Primary Teacher

Bio:, I grew up in Belfast and from when I was a very small child, I always wanted to be a teacher, so I’m one of the few people who can say they got to live their childhood dream! I studied French at Queens and spent a year in Paris working as an English language assistant. When I finished my degree, I did a PGCE in Liverpool Hope before returning to Belfast. I had several different posts before getting a permanent job in Lough View Integrated where I have taught for 15 years. I ended up in the Integrated sector accidentally, but now feel very passionate about the aims and ethos of integrated education.


Hilary Cunningham
Fane Street Primary School

BIO: Hilary has been Principal of Fane Street Primary School since September 2014. She was previously Vice Principal at Fane Street for 10 ½ years. Hilary formerly taught in North Belfast for 13 ½ years: teaching in Carr’s Glen Primary school for 1 year and Grove Primary School for 12 ½ years. She was educated at Knockahollet Primary School and Dalriada School, Ballymoney before progressing to Stranmillis College, where she attained her B.Ed. (Hons) in 1990. Hilary attained her master’s degree in 1998 before achieving her Professional Qualification for Headship in 2009. Hilary is passionate about pastoral care for the children in her charge and accordingly was awarded a Certificate in Counselling Skills for Children from QUB in 2005. She is currently completing a Coaching Qualification Hilary’s main claim to fame is that she taught Carl Frampton in P6 and P7: a fact on which she has dined out for years! When not in work mode, Hilary enjoys spending time with her family, reading and sleeping!


Jim Salt
N/A Special school teacher.

Bio: Started teaching in my mid 30’s. Moved to Belfast in 2000 and ended up by a slice of luck working in Harberton Special School. Knew quite quickly that I had found my vocation and have never regretted working in Special education. Moved to Glenveagh in 2005 and am currently the Head of the Middle Department. I work with kids with Severe Learning Difficulties aged between 11 and 14 and it is a job that can be hard, gruelling and at times dispiriting, but also gives immense satisfaction. The pupils are at the school from the age of 8 until leaving at 19 and that gives us the chance to really get to know them and their families and build strong, positive relationships.


John O’Boyle
St Paul’s Primary School
Primary Teacher

Bio: John O’Boyle is a P5 teacher who has taught in both Secondary and Primary but has found his niche with younger learners. John went into teaching belatedly after what he jokingly calls his, ‘early mid-life crisis’; the aspiration to become a teacher had always been in the back of his mind and 8 years ago he made the leap into education and has never looked back. Since qualifying with his PGCE John has went on to complete an MA in English Literature and is currently finishing his MEd with a piece of action-research on behalf of the Goliath Trust’s Digital Learning Hub (GDLH). Within his role of GDLH co-chair John is jointly leading a campaign to improve digital provision for pupils in NI with an aim of overcoming the digital divide and improve parity of provision for the most vulnerable pupils in NI. With his GDLH colleagues, he strives to equip his pupils and those in all Goliath schools with the digital literacy, computational thinking and technical problem-solving skills that will improve their educational outcomes and empower them for successful careers in the 21st Century job market.



Joanne Quinn
Hazelwood Integrated College 
Media Studies and English Head of Year  

 As a little girl, I always wanted to be a ‘Blue Peter’ presenter and would pretend to do demonstrations in our kitchen. Thankfully, I grew out of that notion! I attended three different primary schools and, when my parents finally decided to settle in Dungannon, I attended St Patrick’s Girls’ Academy. My Academy days were some of the best days of my life – I loved that school. My teachers were incredible and always had such high aspirations for me. While at the Academy, I sang in the school choir, something I thoroughly enjoyed. My Music teacher, Mrs Duffy, was also my piano teacher and, as someone who rarely practiced the piano when she was supposed to, I’m sure I drove her mad! Despite that, she passed on her love of music to me and it has remained with me ever since. At A-Level, I studied Media Studies, English Literature, and Politics. My Media Studies teacher, Mr O’Neill, has had a huge influence on my career and my love for Media Studies. He is someone I admire a lot and I’ve always wanted to inspire my students with the same love for the subject as he inspired in me.

When I left school, I had dreams of becoming a journalist before finally settling on teaching. I studied English and Film at Queen’s before completing my PGCE in Coleraine. That same year, I was the Traffic Correspondent on ‘Cool FM’ – something I thoroughly enjoyed! My first teaching post was in St Ciaran’s High School, Ballygawley. I met some wonderful people while teaching there and made some incredible memories during those three years – most notably playing the role of Mrs Johnstone in ‘Blood Brothers’. I came to Hazelwood all those years ago and haven’t looked back since! I am very proud of Hazelwood and feel privileged to work there. Outside of school, I sit on the Restorative Practices Forum in NI and I am a passionate practitioner of Restorative Practices. Despite teaching Media Studies, I am the world’s worst binge-watcher of TV shows and I have a terrible habit of buying books and never reading them (I never have the time!). 



Julie Young
Belfast Boys Model School 
Maths and Exam officer  

Pupil at Belfast Model School for Girls’, studied at QUB, graduated with an Honours Degree in Applied Maths and then did a PGCE. First teaching job was Belfast Boys’ Model…and this is now my 25th year there. I am a teacher of Maths and am in charge of External Exams and Data Analysis. I enjoy my job, our boys are fantastic! Team Boys’ Model are a hard working group, led by an excellent SLT and captained by the hardest working person I have ever had the pleasure to know. In my spare time I enjoy running – I was persuaded to run for part of a relay team 15 years ago (I was always the girl who was picked last for team games in school). I now run any distance, have 11 marathons under my belt (including London, Dublin and Berlin) along with numerous half marathons. I also enjoy walking, especially along the North Coast, with my daughters and dog, Bailey.


Karen Kelly
Glenveagh special needs school
Special educational needs/Home Economics Teacher

Bio: I’m from New Barnsley in West Belfast. I went to University of Ulster at Jordanstown and completed a PGCE after first doing a Ba (Hons) in Consumer studies. I went to school at St Louise’s and here I first felt the itch to become a teacher. I had some fantastic teachers at St Louise’s especially my Home Economics teacher Miss Gormley. When at the school I did my work experience at Oakwood Special School and loved every minute of it. After Uni I first worked in the civil service, but it wasn’t the career for me and thinking about my work experience I decided to go back to University and complete my PGCE. Since then, I have worked in a range of schools across the North and for the last seven years have been teaching in Glenveagh Special Needs school. I love nothing more than getting out for a swim in the sea and spending time with family and friends walking in the Belfast Hills and further a field and a wee drop of Irish Whiskey to warm me up after!


Kathryn Warren
St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School
English Secondary Teacher

Bio: I didn’t go straight into teaching following by BA (Hons) in English and Theology at Queen’s. I knew I wanted to work with young people and had been doing so during university and continued to after my graduation. I grew up as a teacher’s child; my mum was in fact my primary school principal for three years! I knew how hard teachers worked, I knew the hours behind the scenes that the job often demands, and I decided I would be better suited to youth work rather than teaching. In 2012, I was asked by NICIE to undertake some research work into young people’s perspectives of shared education, this then led to presenting the feedback to teachers and principals and collaborating on strategies to encourage shared classrooms. This foray into the education world, sparked a desire to bite the bullet and pursue teaching. I completed my PGCE in 2013 and began teaching in St Mary’s for half the week and Malone Integrated College for the other half of the week on the Signature Project. Since then, I’ve never left St Mary’s!

Teaching in an all boys school is perfect for me; I’m a massive sports fan and enjoy all the usual banter that comes from being a Manchester United fan these days. I’m passionate about school and society being a safe place for students to be open about their struggles and successes. The rapidly rising suicide rates in Belfast along with the amount of young people (males especially) who are suffering from poor mental health has become more than just a harrowing headline to me, it’s something I’m not satisfied to stand by, and watch take out a generation who have so much to offer. Having fought my own battles mental health issues, I am keen to do what I can as a teacher to ensure any student in St Mary’s know they have someone to turn to even when they don’t have the words to say.

When I’m not battling the mental health stigma, I can usually be found in my kickboxing gym, walking (usually uphill), with friends and family, drinking tea or reminiscing about the good old days of Alex Ferguson.


Kellie Kesoglu
Malone College
EAL support worker

Bio: My name is Kellie Kesoglu. I am the Bilingual support worker at Malone College
I have worked at Malone college for nearly 12 years I started as a special needs classroom assistant and then I helped build our wonderful bilingual centre and have supported newcomer students for the last 7 years this has been a privilege as I understand the struggles for newcomer students starting a new life in another country. My husband is from Istanbul and I saw his struggles as an adult so being able to have that understanding has given me an insight on how to best support new students. I feel like I have the best job and could not feel more prouder working for Malone college the amazing staff and students we have at the college is unique I get to learn something new every day.
My hobbies are:-learning about different cultures
I also enjoy walking and taking photographs of nature.
I am from Belfast
My work goals are to always support students and help them be the best they can be.


Lee Kelly
Edmund Rice College
Technology & Design Teacher

Bio: I Graduated from Stranmillis University College in 2011 with a First-Class Honours. I was lucky enough in September 2011 to begin my first teaching post in St. Louise’s Comprehensive College as a Technology and Design teacher. While there, I worked with some of the most incredible staff and students. During my time in St. Louise’s, I was inspired to complete my Master’s in Education which I completed in 2016 with Commendation. Taking my staff development seriously has really helped me sharpen my practice and focus on the best learning strategies in my classroom. In 2019 I took the opportunity to move to Edmund Rice College where I continued to work as a Technology Teacher. My time at Edmund Rice has presented truly unique challenges in the midst of the pandemic, however it has highlighted to me the strength of the community I have joined. The support of everyone has been overwhelming and truly reflects the care that bleeds through the school ethos. Edmund Rice College is a very exciting place to work as I get to be part of a team that works hard to provide the best possible education for all our young people.


Louise Bradley
St John The Baptist Primary School
Special Needs Classroom Assistant

Bio: I have worked in St John The Baptist Primary School for 9 years, it has been an amazing job working with the best staff. My role is a Special Needs Classroom Assistant and I love every minute of it. The children in our school make it such a happy, fun and lovely place to spend my days. Like all jobs, it can bring its challenges, but nothing that a smile on those little faces can’t change. This year has been a really tough time for everyone working in Education, but St John The Baptist didn’t close its doors throughout it all. Our staff remained dedicated to the children, from remote school learning to looking after key worker children. When our doors closed in July for the summer holidays, myself and a few colleagues continued to work during the summer holidays to make our school the best place we could for the children returning. We brightened up our corridors with hand painted inspirational quotes and photographs of the school’s history and past pupils. It has been a frightening time for everyone working through this pandemic, but this was something we could do to give back to our children coming back to school after such a hard time.



Louise Hanvey 
Ashfield Girls High School 

As the award nomination is for Pandemic Heroes I think that I should start in March 2019. This is the month that I was successful at interview for the role of Principal at Ashfield Girls’ High School. When I walked around the school at interview I felt a real connection to the school and it’s ethos. Taking up the role in August 2019, I had only seven months to get to know the staff and pupils before we moved into the first lockdown. How do you lead a school through a pandemic? I had no idea. I decided early on that I would draw upon previous experiences that I had leading team and apply the same principles; trust, transparency and due regard the complex process of change management. These principles have guided me through the Restart in August 2020 and the current lockdown. I have prioritised health, safety, well-being and continuity of learning over the past year. The pandemic is a shared trauma and one positive is that it has brought me closer to our staff; as I have asked much from them and they have all rose to the challenge. 


Mark O’Hare
Edmund Rice College
Vice Principal

Bio: Born in North Belfast, Mark attended Park Lodge PS and St Malachy’s College. He graduated from Queen’s with a BSc (Hons) in Astrophysics and PGCE in Physics and Science. He began his first job as a science teacher in St Patrick’s, Bearnageeha in 1994, becoming Head of Science in 1999. He led his department to sustained academic improvement and expansion. It was here that he developed an interest in whole-school curriculum planning and timetabling.
Mark was appointed as Vice Principal in Edmund Rice College in 2006, taking the lead role in curriculum development, teaching and learning and school improvement. Throughout this time the college has grown significantly, become co-educational and demonstrated year-on-year improvements in examination success. He credits these successes to a dedicated staff, collaborative leadership approach headed by a dynamic and driven Senior Leadership Team and a key focus on pupil and staff well-being, as well as excellence in teaching and learning.
He was awarded PHQ (NI) in 2007 and he is currently the vice chair of the North Belfast ALC Vice Principals’ Group.
Passionate about the benefits of sport for young people, he is the head coach of Carryduff Colts FC Under 15 squad and is a Manchester United fan.



Maureen Dowds
Glengormley high school 

From the Age of 7 my desire to become a teacher was strong! In school I admired my teachers and wanted to be one of them. Training to be a Teacher was one of my biggest dreams. 


Naoimh Fegan
Holy Cross Boys Primary School
Primary Teacher

Bio: I graduated from University of Ulster Magee with a BSc in Psychology. From there I studied in Dublin Institute of Technology, gaining a MRes in Early Years Development and Education before completing my studies with my PGCE in Special Educational Needs from Stranmillis College. There was a time it was thought I was making a career being a professional student, however I have been teaching now for 20 years and all of them in Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School. I went on teaching practice and have been there ever since!
Originally, I was to stay two years and then continue on my path towards a career in Educational Psychology, but I fell in love with the job, the staff, pupils and community and could not have imagined myself working anywhere else so chose to stay.
Having taught most year groups throughout the school I currently teach Year 4. I have held numerous roles within the school and am at present responsible for providing a safe platform for pupils to come for help, advise or simply to talk.
I am extremely fortunate to work in such an outstanding school with amazing staff and pupils all of whom deserve recognition for their hard work and dedication.
Outside teaching, spending quality time with my family and cheering them on at their sporting endeavours are my greatest passions.


Niall O’Flaherty
St. Louise’s college
Secondary Teacher

BIO: Music is one of my passions, and I have a career which enables me to make and play music every day. Outside of school I work as Musical Director with Banbridge Musical Society, producing both youth and adult shows annually. With this I have been awarded Runner Up as Best Musical Director in Ireland. I am one of the founders of Miscast Belfast: a musical theatre cabaret evening which has been featured on the BBC numerous times with live accompaniment on piano provided by myself. As well as music I have a love for the Irish language and have been the Music Co-ordinator at Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Dún Lúiche from 2014 to 2018. I play rugby for Newry Rugby Club and, whilst this started as a personal challenge to do something that was outside of my comfort zone, has become something I look forward to immensely.



Niamh Maskey
Bunscoil Phobal Feirste 
Primary Teacher  

My love for the Irish language and culture stemmed from my family and my early educational experiences at Naíscoil Bhreandáin and Bunscoil Phobal Feirste. This was further enhanced at St Dominic’s High school through the inspirational teaching of Miss Higgins and Miss Clarke, who enthused me to progress with my Irish medium education and achieve my degree in Irish Language and Literature. On completing my degree, I was fortunate to be offered a position as a classroom assistant in Scoil an Droichid where I was encouraged and supported to pursue a career in teaching. Thankfully, I gained a place on the IME PGCE (TICO) in 2019/20 where I developed invaluable skills and knowledge through teaching and learning experiences. I qualified as a primary school teacher during very challenging times due to the pandemic. Fortunately, a teaching opportunity arose in September 2020 within Bunscoil Phobal Feirste, which I embraced wholeheartedly as this is where my journey began. Since, I have been employed through the Engage Programme to provide literacy, numeracy and nuture support in the school to children whose education has been negatively impacted due to COVID-19. During this current lockdown I have adapted my methods of teaching and continued to engage with children by producing educational resources including bilingual interactive videos to support children and families with home learning. I am grateful for the opportunities presented to me and for the guidance I have received from the school community of Bunscoil Phobal Feirste. It has been a pleasure to work with each child and watch them flourish despite these challenging circumstances and I am grateful to have played a small part in this collective endeavour. As a newly qualified teacher, I am humbled and very appreciative to have been nominated for this award. 


Oisin McVicker
Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain

BIO: My name is Oisin Mc Vicker and I’m from North Belfast. I am also a personal trainer and currently play Gaelic and Hurling for Ardoyne Kickham’s.

I knew I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to make a different to children in the local community. I completed my PGCE in 2017 after completing a degree in Irish Language and Literature in UU, Coleraine. Between starting my first teaching job and finishing my degree I worked as a language assistant and classroom assistant. In September 2017 I went to Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain for 3 days subbing and here we are 4 years later, still enjoying every day as if it was my first.

Cáilíochtaí Gairme / Professional Qualifications: BA (2014), PGCE (2017, QUB)

In my spare time I love going on walks with our new puppy Luna and creating ‘healthy’ dessert recipes (still haven’t mastered that yet). In 10 years’, time I would love to have a family and support them through the same education that I received myself in Irish-medium Education.


Orla McCarthy
Blessed Trinity College
Religion Teacher

Bio: I grew up just outside Portaferry on the Ards Peninsula, the youngest of 6 girls. I went to school in St Columba’s Portaferry before completing my A levels at Our Lady and St Patrick’s Knock. From a very early age, I wanted to be a teacher as I wanted people to see that having a disability was not an obstacle to following your dream. I went to St Mary’s University where I trained as a Religious Studies teacher. On qualifying, I got my first job teaching RE in Little Flower Girls’ School where I spent the next 20 years loving every minute of working in North Belfast. I am continuing this journey in our new amalgamated school, Blessed Trinity and I am privileged to have the opportunity to work with fabulous staff and student body – every day is a new adventure!



Paul Devlin
St. Oliver Plunkett Primary School 
Primary Teacher
 Hi, my name is Paul Devlin. I’m from West Belfast where I attended St. Paul’s PS before joining St. Mary’s CBGS. I then went on to St Mary’s University Belfast before undertaking my PGCE at the University of Cumbria, Carlisle. Currently I’m working at St. Oliver Plunkett PS in Primary 3. I have a passion for working with children in West Belfast as I feel the children can relate to me and I can relate to the community. This was one of my main inspirations for becoming a teacher.
I love to travel and my most recent holiday was in Australia. I spent some time visiting the different parts of Australia before flying home. When it’s safe, I would love for my next destination to be Brazil! I’m also a fan of sports, in particular football. I am a massive Liverpool fan and never miss a game. Under normal circumstances, I would get to Anfield 3 or 4 times a year.


Rhona Grant
Oakwood School and Assessment Centre
Special Needs Nursery Teacher

Bio: I have been a primary teacher for 21 years, initially in Manchester then Kircubbin. I joined Oakwood School and Assessment Centre in 2002. It was an opportunity that I was very grateful to get, as I had always wanted to work with children with special educational needs. I have taught a variety of classes and age groups, but for the last six years I have taught nursery aged children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is an incredibly rewarding job and I love working with the children. Each year the class is so unique, and I have loved every class I have taught. I also get to work with an amazing team of people every day, who give their all to the children. I have helped to organise First Holy Communion for Oakwood and a number of other Special Needs School for last 12 years. It is a privilege to be part of their very special day.
I am married with three children. I love spending time with my family. In my spare time I enjoy Pilates and going for long walks.

Ríanna Drain
Hill Croft
Sensory Department Teacher

Bio: I began teaching in Hill Croft in 2013 after working as Early Years Leader in Kids Together for the 5 years previous. I currently teach in the Sensory Department and I work with children who have a range of complex medical, physical and learning needs. I have worked with many of the children for several years and I know them and their families really well. We often talk about our Hill Croft family in school and that ethos is at the centre of everything.Through my work with Kids Together and Hill Croft, I am very aware of the pressures that families faced pre-pandemic. In the first lockdown, every element of support was taken away from families leaving many in an impossible position. I have a lot of knowledge and skills that could help but as I lived with a shielder I couldn’t help in person. That lead me to start an Instagram and Facebook page with support and learning ideas that only require household items. After I finished my school duties and remote teaching each day, I made new posts that evening to try to support as many families as I could. I tried my best to explain how to adapt an activity for a variety of abilities and supported several families who contacted me with particular difficulties they were facing.


Ríoghnach Hall
St Peter’s nursery School

Bio: Hard work, courage, determination and the love and support of an amazing family helped me to overcome many obstacles to be where I am today. I graduated from St Mary’s University College in 2003 with a 2:1 BA Hons Liberal Arts Degree and went on to complete my PGCE in the University of Ulster Coleraine. Throughout my teaching career I obtained my D.A.S.E specialising in Special Educational Needs and finally the PQHNI.

I have been the principal teacher of St Peter’s Nursery School for 4 years and feel honoured to work within a school and community where everyone works together to achieve success for the benefit of all our children. I strive to inspire everyone I meet just as many have inspired me along the way. Enriching and enhancing the learning experiences of children at the beginning of their educational career is a rewarding job that constantly stretches and challenges the mind reminding me of how privileged I am to be in a job that is so fulfilling.


Sinead Clarke
St. Joseph’s Primary School, Lisburn
P3 Teacher, Math and ICT Coordinator

Bio: I have always wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was in Primary School. Over the years I have had many fantastic and inspirational teachers whose influence and guidance has helped me in so many ways. I graduated from St. Mary’s University College, Belfast with a BEd in Mathematics in 2003. I started my teaching career in Holy Rosary Primary School, Belfast where I taught Primary 4 for 2 years. I knew straight away that I had made the correct career choice as watching the children grow and flourish was so rewarding. I learnt so much in my time there and the advice and support that I was given has always remained with me. In 2005, I was lucky enough to get a permanent position in St Joseph’s Primary School Lisburn, where I currently teach Primary 3. I was privileged to take on the role of ‘Promoting the Catholic Ethos’ coordinator within school. This role has given me great joy over the years. Every child is unique, and it has always been my aim to ensure that all children reach their full potential working within a happy, secure learning environment. I love celebrating the achievements and success of the children in St Joseph’s with parents and the wider school community through our school website and twitter account. I also coordinate Mathematics and ICT throughout the school and am passionate about each of these curricular areas. I really enjoy being the teacher representative on our PTA as it has enabled me to establish good relationships with a great group of parents whilst also raising funds for school. I love my job and every day is certainly different – I never tire of hearing children’s stories and love to see smiles on their faces! Happy children learn!


Siobhan McTaggart
St Therese of Lisieux Primary School

Bio: From West Cork originally, I studied Education and History in Mary Immaculate College of Education in Limerick. Initially I taught in Cork and Waterford, followed by a few years teaching in London. There I met and married a Belfast man, and that is how I ended up in North Belfast. I was lucky enough to get a job in Sacred Heart Boys’ Primary School where I worked for 19 years. I was then appointed Vice Principal of St Mark’s Primary in Twinbrook, which later amalgamated with St Luke’s to become Holy Evangelists’ Primary School. In Sept 2016 I was appointed Principal of St Therese of Lisieux PS. I knew St Therese very well because my children attended there over a period of 17 years, with my youngest finishing P7 just as I started! I have had a long and varied career, teaching all primary year groups, as well as Special Needs groups. I have many happy memories of the children and the wonderful colleagues and friends I have worked with and learned so much from over the past three decades. Having had the opportunity to have such a rewarding career, as well as a busy family life, has been a blessing and a privilege for which I am very grateful!


Siobhan Scott
Taughmonagh Primary School
Primary Teacher

Bio: Siobhan Scott, originally from Wales, came to Belfast in 1997 to study English and Scholastic Philosophy at QUB. After a short stint working for a London publishing company, she realised the corporate world wasn’t for her. She completed her Primary PGCE in Canterbury followed by her first teaching role in London. In 2004, Siobhan returned to Belfast and took-up her role at Taughmonagh Primary where she still teaches today. Having completed a Post-graduate Diploma in Headship(PGDH) with UU in 2019, she commenced an MA in 2021. Siobhan is part of the Literacy and Creative Teams, ICT Co-ordinator and co-chair of the Goliath Digital Learning Hub (GDLH). Together with the Goliath Trust, she is spearheading a campaign to improve digital learning in disadvantaged schools in Belfast. During lockdown, they pitched to DENI the need for Seesaw to be provided to all Primary and Nursery schools and addressing engagement with their Learn2Earn initiative.
Siobhan, with the support of Goliath Trust will further develop her Dragon Summer Reading Project in summer 2021 following a ‘feasibility’ study last summer. The initiative born out of her observation of reading loss over summer months and cumulative effect equating to several years of lost education during the primary years.
Siobhan is Married to Richard and is a busy Mum to: Carys(14), Oliver(12), Thomas(10) and Gethin(6).


Terry Rodgers
St Teresa’s Primary School

BIO: My name is Terry Rodgers, and I am currently Principal of St Teresa’s Primary School on the Glen Road. I have three amazing teenage children including twins and am married to my beautiful wife Catherine. It is said behind every good man is a better woman and this is certainly true in my case. I have been Principal in St Teresa’s PS for the last 7 years. It is truly a privilege to lead such an amazing school, with outstanding staff including Mrs MacAllsiter who provides constant support and brings a sense of fun each day. The parents in St Teresa’s have always been so kind, helpful and supportive.

The children of St Teresa’s are not only so talented but also full of personality and ready to chat with you as soon as they meet you. Prior to St Teresa’s PS I was a Senior Lecturer in St Mary’s University College in the Science Department. From 2007 to 2014 I was Vice Principal of St Colmcille’s in Ballymena. This was a new school created after the closure of four schools. This was an exciting and inspiring time in my career. I learnt so much from my principal Mr Brendan McKenna. From 2001 to 2007 I was a teacher in Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School and as the first Key Stage 2 teacher in that school it was another amazing experience to be part of the development of an evolving school. I am also currently the Principal Moderator for Communication and Chair of Examiners for Computer Adaptive Testing in CCEA. This has been a wonderful experience also leading a wonderful team of moderators and examiners. In the words of Michael Angelo ‘I am still learning’ and I have no doubt the future will hold some exciting adventures! My name is Terry Rodgers, and I am currently Principal of St Teresa’s Primary School on the Glen Road. I have three amazing teenage children including twins and am married to my beautiful wife Catherine. It is said behind every good man is a better woman and this is certainly true in my case. I have been Principal in St Teresa’s PS for the last 7 years. It is truly a privilege to lead such an amazing school, with outstanding staff including Mrs MacAllsiter who provides constant support and brings a sense of fun each day. The parents in St Teresa’s have always been so kind, helpful and supportive. The children of St Teresa’s are not only so talented but also full of personality and ready to chat with you as soon as they meet you. Prior to St Teresa’s PS I was a Senior Lecturer in St Mary’s University College in the Science Department. From 2007 to 2014 I was Vice Principal of St Colmcille’s in Ballymena. This was a new school created after the closure of four schools. This was an exciting and inspiring time in my career. I learnt so much from my principal Mr Brendan McKenna. From 2001 to 2007 I was a teacher in Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School and as the first Key Stage 2 teacher in that school it was another amazing experience to be part of the development of an evolving school. I am also currently the Principal Moderator for Communication and Chair of Examiners for Computer Adaptive Testing in CCEA. This has been a wonderful experience also leading a wonderful team of moderators and examiners. In the words of Michael Angelo ‘I am still learning’ and I have no doubt the future will hold some exciting adventures!


Tim Reynolds
Ballinderry Primary School
Primary Teacher

Bio: I have always been passionate about working with young people. In my twenties, I ran a youth and children’s initiative for The Salvation Army in a large council estate in South Wales. For almost ten years, I was responsible for managing a team of youth and children’s workers and volunteers in running after-school programmes, kids clubs and youth projects. Our work was recognised by the Welsh Government and hundreds of young people were provided with a bright, safe and motivational space to build friendships, learn new skills and receive educational support. After ten years, I moved in a different direction and became Marketing Manager for a large UK family support charity, Care for the Family. For five years, I enjoyed using my creative and communication skills to oversee the charity’s branding and marketing strategy. I then moved into the business sector working as a Marketing Manager for 2buy2, a procurement company, for another 18 months. Throughout these years, the idea of teaching never left me. At 40, I entered teacher training through the PGCE course in Coleraine. Better late than never! I’m in my second year teaching an inspiring group of P3 children at Ballinderry Primary School, alongside a team of dedicated and inspiring work colleagues.

Tish McCann

Bio: I was born in Belfast to parents with a travel bug, and so spent my childhood in Central Africa, only returning to Northern Ireland for university. Being brought up surrounded by people of different cultures, creeds and colours, not to mention economic circumstances instilled a desire to make the world a fairer place. My mother taught in a ‘bush school’ in Africa and I learnt that the only way out of poverty and hardship was through education, I also formed the understanding that the way a society treats it’s least able and weakest members is a measure of that society.

Following my degree, I taught for one year in the mainstream sector before following my heart and moving to special education. I worked in two special schools as a class teacher before completing my master’s degree in Educational Psychology and moving to Oakwood as Vice Principal and then Principal. I have been part of the Oakwood family for more than 20 years and together with the staff team have developed the philosophy that every child teaches us, as we teach them, and we remind ourselves of the privilege of working with these special children and their families.


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