Educators compete for top awards

A NUMBER of familiar faces from local schools have been included in this year’s Family First Awards.

The awards aim to recognise and honour individuals who make family life that little easier or more special.

The awards are divided up by county with the public given the chance to leave support for their favourite at the Families First website.


Competing in the category of best school in Tyrone are Strabane schools St Mary’s and St Catherine’s, along with Sion Mills PS, and Donemana PS.

Gillian Hay, from Donemana PS and Bridget Wilders from St Catherine’s are both vying for the title of best head teacher. Mrs Hay explained, “This is my tenth year as principal of Donemana PS and I endeavour at all times to help our school go from strength to strength. I believe passionately in the importance of a happy homely school and high quality learning experiences which enable every child to achieve their full potential.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Wilders from St Catherine’s said, “I have been involved in education for 30 years. As well as being a teacher entrusted with our children; I have also been a principal in three wonderful schools – St Columba’s, Barrack Street Boys and now St Catherine’s. I love the job that I do and have a great passion, loyalty and pride for our pupils, families and the town as a whole.”

Hoping to impress in the best teacher category are Danny McBride from St Mary’s PS, Cathy Timoney, from Donemana PS, and Shelly O’Kane from St Catherine’s.

A former pupil of St Mary’s Danny explained, “I feel privileged to be afforded the opportunity to give back to the school and the local community that was so supportive to me in my formative years”.

Donemana teacher Cathy Timoney is described as ‘creative and enthusiastic, she always tries to give the best to, and get the best from, her ‘awesome’ pupils”.

St Catherine’s teacher, Shelly O’Kane added, “I take each day as a chance to give every child a new opportunity to shine and nurture them to plant their own seeds in life, growing to meet their full potential.

Completing the local representatives named in the awards are Margaret Boyle, St Mary’s PS, Laura Pierce, Sion Mills PS, and Alex Parkhill from Donemana PS, who are competing in the best complementary staff category. Margaret has been a special needs classroom assistant for 12 years and is described as “an exceptional team player, the embodiment of the school motto ‘Together We Achieve’.

Laura has been a special needs classroom assistant for 16 years and is described as “innovative, highly skilled and an excellent support to both the teacher and the child’s patents.”

For 18 years Alex has worked one-to-one with children with additional needs. She believes it is a privilege to work with the children and is described as having “a good sense of humour, is creative, and adaptable. She approaches each day with a smile.”

The awards will be presented at a special ceremony in Titanic Belfast on Friday, February 7.

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