BY Peter Diamond | November 23 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


What does your Catholic teacher mean to you?

Politicians, teachers, young people and journalists reflect on their own Catholic school teachers and the impact they had on them.


Brendan McGinty, Editor, Sunday Mail

 A recent flick through some third year school reports confirmed my memory that my relationship with teachers could often be…. fractious.

For this I have to shoulder some of the blame. I can remember being of the steadfast belief that I knew better than all of them. Subsequent exam results prove beyond any doubt that I didn’t.

I do recall one particular inspirational moment as I was nearing the end of sixth year at St Columba’s High, Dunfermline.

It involved one of the senior teachers impressing on us that our aim should not just be to be the best in our school (it would fall into a category later described by Tony Blair as ‘bog standard comprehensive’).

We had to go from our provincial Catholic secondary and prove we were good enough to compete with people from better-rated, more prestigious schools.

It was no good just being close to top of the class: when we left the competition would be from Glasgow Academy, St Aloysius, Eton, Dollar Academy, Brompton Oratory. And we could and should compete.

So I’d like to thank the man responsible for instilling this sense of ambition and the idea that we had something proud to represent.

Thankfully I can do that in person, maybe when he’s given my children their dinner tomorrow night. The teacher was Mr (Daniel) McGinty and he doubles as my dad.


Annie Wells, Conservative MSP for Glasgow

The teacher that most springs to mind is Miss O’Hagan, who was the first teacher I had at St Martha’s Primary School in Glasgow.

Miss O’Hagan was my teacher for a few of my primary school years, and what I felt throughout that time was that I could always be myself.

On a school trip to France and Belgium in P7, she encouraged me to stand up to bullies and I have always been grateful for the self-belief that experience gave me.

I was lucky enough to meet Miss O’Hagan a couple of weeks ago for coffee after she spotted me on social media. After 40 years, she was still the inspirational woman I remembered her to be.


Monica Lennon, Labour MSP for Hamilton

In this landmark centenary year of the Catholic Education (Scotland) Act, delivering the keynote address at Holy Cross High School in Hamilton gave me the opportunity to celebrate the important contribution of Catholic schools and reflect on my own personal experience.

As a former pupil of another Hamilton school—St John Ogilvie High—I have been thinking about my secondary education a lot lately, mostly because my daughter, who is a first year pupil, has been quizzing me about teachers. Many teachers have retired or moved on from St John Ogilvie High in the 20-plus years since I left, but the values have endured.

My headteacher, Mrs Anne Marie Fagan, was an impressive school leader.

During a crisis in confidence when I felt I would not fit in at university, Mrs Fagan took me aside for a motivational chat. Her approach was firm but always caring.

My time at St John Ogilvie High taught me about community, fairness and social justice. I learned how to follow my Faith whilst respecting other beliefs.

A positive role model and an inspirational Catholic, Mrs Fagan’s dedication was recognised when she was awarded a CBE for her service to education.


Stephen Colligan, Headteacher St Matthew’s Academy, Saltcoats

All teachers can point to one or two individuals who inspired them to take up the mantle of supporting the next generation and I am no different.

For me it was Mr Bill Hutchison, my maths teacher for four of my six years at Holyrood Secondary School, who inspired me to follow the path into education.

Mr Hutchison (never ‘Bill’) had a calm, caring but determined method of teaching that drove us all to do our best. Nobody wanted to let down a man who was doing so much for us.

He gave of his time, was patient, supportive and somehow knew how to share the subject in a way that made it seem simple and enjoyable.

Each Sunday I would see him at Mass in Christ the King in Glasgow and greatly appreciated that he always took time to say hello to my family.

A small gesture but one that stayed with me throughout the years and made me realise that it’s the small gestures that often make the difference in teaching.

I bumped into him years later outside Celtic Park and told him he was the reason I became a teacher.

I thanked him for all his support and advice. In his usual modest way he deflected the conversation to a discussion about me rather than himself.

I should have expected this as it was never about him; it was always about the pupils.


Ciara Heath, former head girl Holyrood Secondary, Glasgow

The teacher who believed in me from my very first day at secondary school was Mrs Elaine Coyle from Holyrood RC Secondary School in Glasgow.

Mrs Coyle was my French teacher and my pastoral care teacher throughout my time at secondary school; I could not have wished for anyone better to support me through the years. She was kind and caring and loved by many pupils.

Mrs Coyle encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and apply to be head girl in Sixth Year, something I would never have considered myself to be capable of, yet with her support and guidance I was successful.

I was recently asked by Mrs Coyle to return to deliver a speech to senior pupils about believing in themselves and their abilities.

Mrs Coyle was instrumental in enabling me, and many others, to grow in confidence and for that I will always be incredibly thankful.

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