Athlone Community College's Meighan wins €10k 'Maths Teacher of the Year' award
An Athlone teacher who helped 25 of the 30 students in her Honours level Leaving Cert Maths class achieve the top grade of H1 last year has been chosen as the winner of The Irish Mathematical Trust's award for the best teacher of the subject in the country.
Meighan Duffy of Athlone Community College was presented with the honour at a ceremony in University College Cork last Saturday. In addition to a personalised Cork Crystal trophy and certificate, she was awarded a prize of €10,000.
"I am absolutely thrilled. I don't think it's fully sunk in yet!" Ms Duffy told the Westmeath Independent. "It's such a prestigious award given the amount of brilliant Maths teachers there are in the country, and even within Athlone Community College."
A native of Shercock, in county Cavan, she has been teaching at the local school since 2014, the year she graduated from NUI Galway with a First Class Honours degree in Applied Maths and Education.
A citation read out at last weekend's ceremony quoted Athlone Community College principal Eileen Donohoe, who said: "Meighan Duffy is a unique teacher who excels at ensuring students flourish in her classroom and beyond.
"In my role in senior management for the last 30 years, I have never encountered such ability, enthusiasm, diligence, dedication and resilience from a teacher. Her skills as a Maths teacher are highly regarded not just in the school setting but in the wider community.
"Meighan can be seen regularly giving up her lunch times, and after school, giving feedback, encouragement and extra help to students. She is incredibly intuitive. Students have often joked that she must be psychic.
"She has an incredible ability, despite her full-capacity classes, to spot when something is wrong with a student, and they are comfortable to confide in her. She ensures no student is left behind, no matter what the circumstance."
In addition to her success with her Honours level Maths class last year, Ms Duffy also helped just under 50% of her Applied Maths class achieve a H1 in Leaving Cert 2022.
When asked about her approach to teaching Maths, she said: "My approach is about really creating a positive atmosphere within the classroom. I encourage students to ask questions, to make mistakes, and just to continuously improve.
"We are not always going to be brilliant at something at the very beginning, so I try to really encourage that growth mindset within students and to make them believe they are 100% capable of improving and achieving the top results."
She added that she was also mindful of developing confidence in the subject among her female students.
"There's a misconception that they are not as able as the lads, so I really put a lot of effort into improving my female students' confidence, being a role model for them, and showing them that it is possible," she said.
The award for Irish teachers of Mathematics was set up in 2017. It is offered by the Irish Mathematical Trust, with the generous sponsorship of Frank Kenny through the Mary Vesey Fund at The Community Foundation for Ireland.
The donor has supported the award on the basis of a lifelong interest in mathematics, and a belief in the need to recognise excellence in teaching.