Our most inspiring teachers: ‘I don’t remember the curriculum, but what he opened our eyes to’

Our most inspiring teachers: ‘I don’t remember the curriculum, but what he opened our eyes to’

As he approached the tail end of his primary school years, Ray Cuddihy, better known as Múinteoir Ray from Homeschool Hub, would spend his free time out galavanting in the North Cork countryside that was and still is his home.

“I was beholden to nature,” says the teacher and television host, “devouring books like Tom McCaughren’s Run With The Wind and TV shows like The Wind In The Willows.

“I also had a hugely influential teacher named Eamonn Horgan who was from my hometown of Doneraile.

“When I think back to things that Eamonn taught us, I don’t think of particular items from the curriculum, but I remember what he opened our eyes to. He loved getting outside and into nature and he knew everything about local trees and wildlife.

“He was also very passionate about local history. This made for amazing nature walks and active learning.

“We were just rambling around, getting to know our place in the world but it was so exciting.” 

Ray Cuddihy says: ‘When I think back to things that Eamonn taught us, I don’t think of particular items from the curriculum, but I remember what he opened our eyes to.’ Picture: Dan Linehan

As well as a “mighty sense of humour which spoke well to kids who were always up for a laugh”, Eamonn had boundless energy which meant he was, and still is, involved in everything from training GAA teams to running different community initiatives. 

Long after primary school, when Ray went on to train as a teacher himself he would often bump into Eamonn who “always gave great advice and encouragement”.

“My siblings had him as a teacher too,” says Ray, “and everyone would be jealous of whoever he was teaching that year because you’d be hearing stories of what he said or what he had decided to do on any given day. 

He was such an outstanding and unique teacher. 

“Anyone who ever had Eamonn Horgan as a teacher will have amazing memories, as well as love and respect for the man.” 

‘Ms Kennedy taught us there’s no such thing as failure’

Unlike the majority of us, Aisling Larkin, has fond memories of getting up for school on Monday mornings. 

The Six O’Clock Show’s resident cook, who attended St Declan’s Community College in Kilmacthomas, Waterford, had home economics first thing and that meant getting the week off to the perfect start.

“We had Ms Kennedy who was fairly young and sprightly and really kind of trendy,” says Aisling. “We had her for Junior Cert.

“I skipped into school on a Monday morning with my ingredients ready. You’d go in and turn on the ovens and gradually the room would heat up.

“I could see into my grandmother’s back garden from the home ec room too, so there was always this sense of safety and comfort.” 

Chef Aisling Larkin said she used to ‘skipped into school on a Monday morning’ in anticipation of her home ec class. Picture: Denis Minihane

Being good at the subject and knowing her way around a kitchen undoubtedly motivated Aisling, but without Ms Kennedy’s input and her talent for facilitating learning, it might well have been a different story.

“It was joyful,” she says. “We were fully immersed in this creative flow and what we were doing. There was structure to it. You had a 10-point plan to work on and that gave you focus.

“As well as that, you were working and bonding with your cooking partner, figuring things out as you went along and there were opportunities to be creative.” 

If and when that creativity went too far and resulted in lumpy mash or rock hard meringues that was never an issue.

“For Ms Kennedy there was no such thing as failure,” recalls Aisling. 

“Everybody looked at each other’s work and did an evaluation, a reflective practice where you learnt what went well and what maybe didn’t go well. 

Before you walked out that door you had to say what you had done well though and that was really important.

“Knowing that failing was OK and knowing that you had done something well, meant you were able to try the next time and hopefully do it better.” 

As luck would have it, Aisling not only started her week with Ms Kennedy but finished it off in her religious education class too. As well as the mandatory curriculum, the young teacher introduced a thought for the day.

“She had this little old book that she’d quote from,” recalls Aisling.

Aisling Larkin’s teacher Ms Kennedy instilled in her students that there was no such thing as failure. Picture: Denis Minihane

“They were like mantras or inspirational ideas that she read out. Then she’d give us time on our own to reflect quietly on what had been said and after a few minutes bring us back into groups and let us discuss them.

“She was very open and honest with us and she created that space for us which meant that conversations were had in that classroom on a Friday that wouldn’t get a look-in in any other room.

“It was lovely, and as a class, it made us connect better. What she created allowed you to be your authentic self and I have a sense now, looking back on it, that not only did she help us to grow and develop but also to thrive.”

‘Myles Dungan had enormous faith in me’

“If you catch young minds at a certain time and you have a teacher who is really interested, it’s adding fuel to a very bright fire at exactly the right time,” says musician Tom Dunne.

“Myles Dungan walked in the door just at the time when my mind was alive with possibilities.” 

Tom Dunne went to school in CBS St James’s in Dublin. His teacher Myles Dungan joined as a student teacher while Tom was in second year. Picture: Nick Bradshaw

The broadcaster came from a long line in his family who went to school at CBS St James’s in the heart of Dublin’s Liberties. Though he was a willing and talented student, the Something Happens frontman needed someone to steer his creative inclinations in the right direction.

“I had come through primary school where I hadn’t really settled,” he recalls. “But by the time I hit secondary I was starting to enjoy it.

“Myles joined the school in second year as a student teacher. He had a big beard on him and he was this big bundle of 70s energy. He taught us English and history. I remember on the first weekend, he asked us to do an essay which he subsequently corrected and was very complimentary about. 

Every Friday he’d set an essay and I lived for it. I loved it.” 

That first word of encouragement sparked something in Tom that has lasted to this day.

“He could see that I was interested in English,” he recalls. “He’d give me additional books to read. He brought us to plays and really encouraged us in that. 

“Later on, he had a lot to do with the setting up of the debating team and I became the captain. That was a great experience. 

He had enormous faith in me and was someo

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