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Friday 19 January 2018

Smiling Toyosi was always a pleasure to teach

Toyosi 'Toy' Shittabey was a very positive, bubbly child even from day one of secondary school, when a lot of children wouldn't have a confidence in them as incoming first years.

I was teaching him from that first year in Hartstown Community School. As his tutor, I take the roll-call every morning with his third year group in 'Taylor' class, named after Katie Taylor, which was quite appropriate considering his strength in athletics.

He was always polite and always very kind and willing to help out in the classroom. He would be the first one to help you in any way.

He was so popular with not only the kids in his own classroom but also throughout third year and other years. At the remembrance service on Monday, it struck me how many people not only from Taylor class were there, but also others because of his involvement in sports.

He was part of the athletics team and his name was constantly going into the school newsletter for achievements, particularly in cross-country. Toy was also big into soccer; I would frequently write on the attendance sheet that he was going to cross-country or to a football match.

Academically, he was as good as anyone in that class. He did his homework and was excellent.

He was just great, a great guy, very positive, with a smile that would brighten up anyone's day.

There were never any issues with discipline with him that we don't deal with every day. Even if you gave out to him, he would bounce back the next day. He never held any grudges with any of us.

Toy had a great sense of humour and was always smiling.

In the book of condolences here, the kids all say that he told them to look on the bright side of life. He was a very happy, upbeat guy who was voted as the class representative last year.


His death just hasn't registered and it won't register until I walk in that door on Monday to take the roll call.

When I saw the 9pm news on Saturday, it really hit home when the first pictures of him came on. It is just surreal, we are just numb with the shock.

I found out what had happened on Saturday morning from the school. I didn't believe it. I hadn't heard any news so I hadn't heard that there was a teenager stabbed or anything like that.

I have been teaching for 17 years. With international students, I have had to change in some ways but nothing major. I found that they have brought up the other students because of their drive, their motivation and their willingness to succeed.

I am paid to teach no matter who is sitting in front of me. That is my job, to teach. I have Nigerians, Moldovans, Lithuanians, Romanians and Irish in my class.

Overall it has been a very positive experience. They have blended in from day one and are used to being around different cultures.

I would say Monday will be a very, very difficult day. We will have a system set up where we will keep it as calm as possible and be aware of the individual personal reactions to it. It will also be hard with the Junior Certificate looming.

We are planning a memorial and we will work with the chaplain of the school to achieve that. We are going to come up with something over the next few days.

Toy's lasting legacy will be his good humour, looking on the positive and enjoying life.

Julie Reilly was in conversation with Shane Hickey

Irish Independent

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