The former principal of Derry’s St Mary’s College has been honoured with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in this year’s National Teaching Awards as she was praised by Bill Clinton.

Marie Lindsay was given the prestigious recognition live on BBC’s The One Show and was praised by the former US President in a video message for her work “to develop rising generations of women leaders”.

She wasn’t the only Northern Irish teacher honoured on the show.

Michael Allen – principal of neighboring Lisneal College – was also awarded ‘Head Teacher of the Year’.

Ms Lindsay retired from her post at the Derry school last year after being diagnosed with cancer.

It ended a 12-year term in the post on the back of a 35-year teaching career.

In a video message, former US President Bill Clinton thanked her for her service to education in Northern Ireland.

“Thank you for everything that you have done to provide your students with a good education and to develop rising generations of women leaders focused on the possibilities of tomorrow rather than the grievances of yesterday,” the 42nd President said.

“The warmth and friendship that the people of your city and all of Northern Ireland have given me since has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.”

Ms Lindsay was presented with her prize live on BBC The One Show by Ronan Keating, Emma Willis and Angellica Bell.

The former teacher was described by current principal Brendan McGinn as a “visionary leader” and an “outstanding role model”.

Speaking after she got the award and heard the message from President Clinton, Ms Lindsay said: “I am speechless I just can’t believe it.

“I have seen him speak in person twice in Derry I can’t really take that in. I was reminded about John and Pat Hume.

“She was a good friend. I don’t think I can put into words how I can feel about that.

“What an honour.”

Meanwhile, Lisneal College principal Michael Allen was taken by surprise live on the show, expecting simply to congratulate his colleague, he was instead awarded his own prize – the award for ‘Headteacher of the Year in a Secondary School’ for his constant “commitment, leadership and inspiration” since his appointment in 2015.

A lifelong Manchester United fan, Spanish international midfielder Juan Mata and former United great Teddy Sheringham surprised him with their own message.

“Congratulations on this award it is very well deserved,” said the former England striker.

“I have heard how much you do for the school, students and community and I think it is absolutely fantastic work.”

Juan Mata added: “I have heard you have done many things for your children and school so well done. We are looking forward to meeting you one day.”

Mr Allen said he couldn’t believe he had won the award, adding that he was “lost for words to be given such a huge honour”.

Mr Allen will be presented with his award in-person at a ceremony on Sunday evening.

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