The lasting influence of teachers who are worth their weight in gold

Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

The President of NUI Galway is a learned man. Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh graduated first in his class at UCG; he qualified as a chartered accountant and holds a PhD in accounting from the University of Leeds.

He’s a former Fulbright Fellow at Northeastern University in Boston and was at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand in 2008 before coming to UCD as Professor of Accountancy.

But when he was asked about key influencers on his life and career, he didn’t name fellow academics or leading analysts – he named three of his teachers from his time in the City’s Coláiste Iognáid – the Jes.

And he remembered why they influenced him in their different ways; Bernie O’Connell was his Irish teacher but his lasting mark was advice rather than Irish.

“I remember him saying it’s not the problems you face in life – because everyone has problems; it’s how you face them. I thought that was a great thing to teach 15-year-olds,” he recalled.

He remembered how English teacher Frank Canavan taught them to embrace new words “because language evolves, language is not fixed”.

And French teacher Paddy Lydon inspired him to take French as part of his commerce degree which led him to spend a summer working in Paris.

Key people at a crucial and formative time in a teenager’s life; and all three left a lasting impression on a man who now has to chart the path for more than 18,000 students at his old Alma Mater.

We’ve all had teachers who left their indelible mark, whether it was a visionary primary teacher who threw the books to one side and took the class on nature trails, or the English teacher who fostered a love of writing or the Science teacher who sowed the seeds for the medical consultants whose hands now save lives.

It’s not just about academic excellence either, because that’s only one measure of ability – as with Bernie O’Connell to Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, it might be a word to two to remember when the world is not on your side.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.