Four teachers from Donegal are proving to be top of the class after being named on the Teachers Inspire shortlist.

Lorna Barron from Buncrana, Denise Dowds from Muff, Nora Duffy from Dunfanaghy and Mary Daly from Castlefin were nominated for the inaugural awards for their enormous contribution to students’ lives. Twenty teachers were shortlisted from over 400 entries.

Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana had double reason to celebrate as two of its teachers were named on the shortlist. Lorna Barron (from Buncrana) and Denise Dowds (from Muff and now living in Buncrana) had the pleasant surprise of learning about their nomination this week.

Scoil Mhuire Buncrana students Alannah Bradley (far left) and Marie Barr (far right) with teachers Lorna Barron (nominated by Alannah) and Denise Dowds (nominated by Marie), two of the teachers announced on the Teachers Inspire Ireland shortlist. Pic: Julien Behal.

Ms. Barron was nominated by student Alannah Bradley from Ballymagan, Buncrana.  In her nomination, Alannah wrote: “Ms. Barron is such a huge asset to Scoil Mhuire in every way, not just in her caring, kind attitude but also her ability to get a vast majority of students a high grade in their exams and push students to their potential.  No job or problem is too big for Ms. Barron either, from hosting the school’s successful musical every two years to being in charge of the examination aid for the State exams.”

Denise Dowds was also nominated as one of Ireland’s most inspiring teachers by a current student, Marie Barr (from Upper Gransha, Buncrana).  In her nomination, Marie described Ms. Dowds as a “climate hero”.

“Ms. Dowds inspired me and 45 other students to stand up for what we believe in,” she wrote. “She set up a group called the Cli-Mates… to raise awareness about climate change and environmental issues and to take action against them. This group has done many things, from beach clean-ups to climate strikes to telling people about how to be more environmentally friendly but, most importantly, it has given us a voice… She has given us this voice. She has taught us to use that voice and I am very thankful for that.”

Additional Donegal connections on the Teachers Inspire shortlist come by way of Dublin.  One of the shortlisted teachers in Leinster is Nora Duffy, who taught at St. Joseph’s Co-Educational National School on the East Wall Road in Dublin for several decades.

Originally from Dunfanaghy, Ms. Duffy arrived in the East Wall in the 1960s.  Her nominator, Caitríona Ní Cassaithe, highlighted her passion for the Irish language, amongst many other attributes, noting that “most East Wall Irish enthusiasts speak it (Irish) with a Northern twang – a nod to our school-day beginnings”.

Another teacher to make the shortlist meanwhile is Mary Daly, who is originally from Castlefin, but has lived in Celbridge since 1985.  Mary was a teacher at St. Dominic’s College in Ballyfermot, and was nominated for Teachers Inspire Ireland by her former student, Niamh Smith.

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.