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Ciara O'Neill



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Teaching Awards 2008 winner - Northern Ireland

Ciara O'Neill
St Brigids Primary School (Mayogall)

The BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School

Ciara O'Neill can engage pupils and parents like no other. How many teachers have managed to get Dads to sit in the story-telling chair, wear a bonnet and sing nonsense songs â€" and in front of 60 other parents? No-one is immune from her sense of fun, enthusiasm for learning and love of life.

Ciara has high expectations of herself and of all her pupils. She tells each one that they are a ‘star' with the potential to ‘shine brightly', and the children believe her and want to learn. Currently studying in the evenings for a Masters Degree in social inclusion, Ciara tells pupils she learns new things at night, so they can help them to learn more effectively during the day.

Ciara has a challenging class of pupils with mixed abilities, and special needs. She uses yoga, meditation, primary movement, circle time, music, drama and ICT - every weapon in her arsenal to ensure that learning is maximised â€" and mixes conventional and creative teaching methods.

An inspector visiting the school earlier this year said her reading lesson was "possibly the best phonics lesson” he had ever seen. Anne McGlinchey, the school's acting vice principal, said: "This was praise indeed for an outstanding teacher who has no concept of how good she really is!”

As a member of the Senior Leadership Team, Ciara leads the development of creative and expressive areas of the curriculum and is head of the foundation stage. She liaises with a number of professionals including the SENCO, educational psychologists, and speech and language therapists. Ciara is also a talented musician who believes in the use of music to engage pupils.

Colleagues talk of her "free spirit” and describe her as "a genuinely good person who shares her skills, talents, knowledge and love of life and fun with the school community and beyond”.

The two sisters who nominated her said she was "fantastic”. "At choir we have great fun because she makes us do funny dances and exercises to help us to sing better. We love Mrs. O'Neill and we want her to win”.

Message board

  • Congratulations

    Well done Ciara. I'm glad that your fantastic talents are finally getting the recognition they deserve. You truly are an inspirational teacher.

    Posted: June 28, 2008 at 20:29 PM | Author:Antoin Moran

  • You're the Best

    Congratulations Ciara, as your husband and kids, we know you put your everything into your work. You are a truly passionate and inspiring person. You are our star every week. Sean, Donovan & Naomhan.

    Posted: June 25, 2008 at 19:12 PM | Author:Sean, Donovan & Naomhan O'Neill

  • Ciara

    Your message was very interesting to read! Have printed off and will display on staff notice board. I'm sure there will be others who would like to read it. Thanks. Love Chris

    Posted: June 22, 2008 at 12:10 PM | Author:Christina Sweeney

  • Well done!!

    Congratulations Ciara, you thoroughly deserved it!! Good luck for the Nationals!!

    Posted: June 17, 2008 at 11:18 AM | Author:Elaine Mc Eldowney

  • You are Brilliant!

    Well done Ciara! No surprise to see you leading the field. We'll be thinking of you every step of the way towards success in the final. Much love, Cait and Ivan

    Posted: June 17, 2008 at 08:14 AM | Author:Cait McCullagh


    Congratulations Mrs O'Neill. It is fantastic to work in St Brigid's with you. You are an inspiration to anyone who wants to be a teacher. When you take assembly and we all sing - everyone participates. You are so energetic, so talented, so amazing! Keep up the great work - you bring music to all our lives. GrĂĄinne

    Posted: June 16, 2008 at 22:47 PM | Author:GrĂĄinne O'Kane

  • Thank You

    Ciara, you are a very deserving winner. Thank you for all that you have contributed to the life of the school; you really have improved so many aspects of our school life! You give so freely of your time and your talents. Often we don't take the time to thank you - hopefully the Plato will let you know that you are appreciated! Good luck in London. You are our star. Mary

    Posted: June 16, 2008 at 22:43 PM | Author:Mary O'Kane

  • Congratulations!!!

    Ah, Ciara, well done! We are all so very proud of you. Maybe now you'll believe us when we tell you how good you really are! You deserve this award so much, enjoy everything that comes with it! Best wishes, Anne xx

    Posted: June 16, 2008 at 17:44 PM | Author:Anne Hegarty