Deirdre MacDonald. former teacher at Coláiste Éamonn Rís, Wexford and former president of the ASTI (Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland), has been bestowed with what is described as the “highest honour” an ASTI member can receive. In addition to receiving the Thomas McDonagh Medal in honour of her service to the union, Deirdre also received a honorary lifetime membership at a ceremony in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin.
And Deirdre, who served as ASTI president in 2019/20, said the award had been presented in recognition of her work during the pandemic, a time when the teaching profession was challenged like never before.
“It was a very challenging time, all the people skills you could muster were needed, you were dealing with disparate people with disparate needs,” said Deirdre. “I was there to represent members and to preserve the future sustainability of the education system. It involved a lot of 18-hour days, that was regular at the time, from when Covid-19 began right through until it eased.”
Currently on the board of the Health and Safety Authority and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, Deirdre says her experience in the education industry continues to stand her in good stead in her new roles. And having guided thousands of students through the Leaving Cert in her time at Coláiste Éamonn Rís she says the annual examinations provide young people with valuable life lessons for their future endeavours.
“For all the giving out people do about the Leaving Cert it’s a great life learning experience in personal management,” she said. “I’ve had past pupils come to me who are now in very significant roles in various organisations and they tell me how much they learned about managing themselves and their time through the Leaving Cert.”
And while many students will aim for high marks and places on elite courses, Deirdre says everyone must follow their own career path, wherever it takes the,.
“There are so many paths now to achieving your goals, the Leaving Cert is not everything, there are so many paths and often the longer path is the better option.”