Wexford CBS teacher Deirdre MacDonald has bridged a 36-year gap by becoming the first Wexford-based vice-president of the ASTI since 1982.
Ms MacDonald is a maths and SPHE teacher, and is also qualified in health promotion, specialising in mental health. Born and brought up in Gorey and Courtown, she lives in Enniscorthy and teaches in Coláiste Éamonn Ris, Wexford town, giving her plenty of connections around the county.
The ASTI is the largest second-level teachers' union in Ireland and Ms MacDonald was delighted that, in the centenary of women getting the vote, she had received the vote from her fellow teachers for this role. The last Wexford-based holder of the role was Limerick man Tony Boland.
Ms MacDonald is a founding member of the County Wexford Meitheal Alliance, a peer mentoring programme which helps support first year students in their first few months of secondary school and build leadership skills in the student mentors. Her involvement in the Wexford Education Network, which she chaired for three years, also gave the opportunity to address issues around education and mental health.
In recent years her interest, attention and expertise in occupational health were developed and, again, she specialised in the area of psychological welfare. This work has led to her speaking at both national and international conferences on this aspect of the workplace.
Most recently she spoke at the EU conference 'A Decent Workplace' in June 2017. She is a member of the ICTU Health and Safety Committee, and chairs its mental health sub-committee.
A member of the ASTI since first joining the teaching profession, she has been an activist at local and national level. Dignity and Equality in the Workplace was her campaign theme.
She believes that equal pay for equal work is a basic concept, one that she has campaigned for since government cuts in 2011. She believes the voice of the classroom teacher is being lost in education discussion and that had to stop as practicing teachers were best placed to understand what and how reform in education should take place.
'The industrialisation of teaching is not the way a progressive education system should go. Ireland, though towards the bottom of the league in terms of expenditure on education, is among the top countries in terms of indicators of delivery of quality education.'
She added that the teaching profession should be recognised for its seminal role in developing the citizens and workers of the future and she intended to ensure that their voice and welfare was prioritised in the ongoing dialogue in education.