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    GeneralDedicated teacher honoured to win award

    Dedicated teacher honoured to win award

    A LONGSTONE woman who has devoted her 13-year career to helping improve children’s lives has been named as the Inspirational Teacher of the Year.

    Emma McLaughlin was “reduced to tears” when she was revealed as the category’s winner at the recent awards ceremony, organised by Local Women Magazine, and which took place on 23 June.

    The mum-of-three, who began her career as a P1 teacher at St Mary’s Primary School in Glasdrumman, and then moved on to roles which took her to schools in west Belfast and Saval, is now based at St Columban’s Primary School, where she works with children with complex and severe learning needs.

    Emma feels there is no better job in the world than to help enhance a child’s life and to be able to witness them develop not only their skills but also their confidence and capabilities.

    Having taught for the past five years in Kilkeel, at a primary school created following the closure of St Mary’s in Glasdrumman, Moneydarragh – which Emma attended – and St Joseph’s in Ballymartin, the local woman says she is still coming to terms with being nominated for an award, never mind winning it!

    Thrilled but shocked and humbled in equal measure, Emma said she is enjoying the fact she does not know who was behind her nomination – but is so appreciative that they thought she was “anywhere near worthy enough” for her name to be put forward.

    She said an out of the blue call, to the school, to inform her she had been nominated and shortlisted by the judging panel was “a lovely surprise”.

    Putting on record her gratitude to the school’s principal, Mr Julian Kelly, plus her colleagues and pupils at St Columban’s  Primary School and Early Years Provision,  “for helping me get to where I am”, she went on to say the title “is a lovely accolade to receive”.

    Speaking of her time at the relatively newly formed school, Emma explained that initially she was teaching P4 children in the mainstream and for the past two years has been teaching in the school’s SLD (severe learning difficulties) Early Years Provision, which was more recently opened to address the need in the area.

    “In my first year I was one of the three teachers embarking on this new learning curve for our school and I taught the nursery class. One of the most rewarding years I have ever had in teaching, but equally one of the most challenging as one of my pupils, little Ollie Grant, from Kilcoo, passed away,” she explained, adding that most recently she was teaching P2 pupils with SLD.

    “I was honoured to be nominated for a teaching award, especially this past number of years,” Emma continued.

    “It is very hard work, a real vocation and people are very unaware of all the hard work and effort that is put in not only during work hours, but when I am home.”

    Combining a busy work schedule with an equally busy family life, raising her children, Annie (8), Malachy (5) and two-year-old Ronan, Emma said she – like so many others in the profession – will often sit and prepare resources and complete paperwork in the evenings, once the kids are in bed, “as I love what I do!”

    She attended the recent awards ceremony along with her husband Joe and parents Frances and Emmett Haughian.

    Emma said she went to the event never imagining she would be coming home with a title and an impressive award to boot!

    “I was excited to have a lovely day out and delighted to be a nominee.

    “The women I met on the day were some of the most fantastic and hard-working people I have ever met, with amazing yet emotional back stories.

    “I was truly humbled to be among them.

    “The day was great and when the awards started the nominees for my category were announced by Frank Mitchell, who was overseeing proceedings, and when he called my name as the winner it took me a moment to react.”

    Admitting that “of course there were tears of joy” on her walk to the stage, the worthy winner added: “I couldn’t believe I won, for those who know me know that I am never stuck for words but there I found myself utterly speechless.”

    She also emphasised that she “wouldn’t have received the award or be able to do the job I do” without a number of very special people in her life.

    Paying tribute to her husband, their three “beautiful children”, her parents and siblings, Paul and Amanda, she admitted that their support is vital.

    “Without them helping me physically and emotionally I couldn’t do the work I do. Teaching is not a 9am to 3pm job, it’s an all hours of the day job as you are always thinking of your pupils.

    “They become like your own and hold a very special place in your heart,” she continued.

    She said the establishment of specialist early years provision in Kilkeel was “amazing for St Columban’s and for the area in general,” adding that children from the wider area are amongst the 30-plus pupils she worked with in the most recent school year.

    “I am passionate about my job, but it’s not really a job – it’s far more, and on so many levels.

    “It is so rewarding to be able to help the pupils and, as a consequence, help improve their lives and their family life.

    “I only ever wanted to become a teacher, there was no ‘Plan B’. Working with the children over the years has been a privilege and one I hope to be able to do for the rest of my working life,” Emma concluded. 

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