School of Pharmacy lecturer recognised as a Teaching Hero

13 Oct 2014
Leigh-Anne Hayes, student with Dr. Eileen O'Leary, Dept. of Chemistry, UCC who received her award in the presence of USI President Laura Harmon (left), Minister for Education & Skills Ms Jan O'Sullivan TD, the Patron of the National Forum Prof Mary McAleese and Chair of the Forum Prof Sarah Moore (right) at a special ceremony in Dublin Castle on Tuesday, September 30th. Picture by Shane O’Neill / Copyright Fennell Photography 2014.

Dr Eileen O’Leary, School of Pharmacy & Dept of Chemistry University College Cork has been recognised as a Teaching Hero by her students in the inaugural National Teaching Hero Awards. 

The awards were established by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and other student bodies to recognise and celebrate students' experiences of great teaching throughout all higher education institutions.

Teaching Heroes were nominated by students and the fifty three national award winners were selected by local student working groups which identified up to two teaching heroes from within their institution. The identification process used in each institution was informed by guidelines that focused on merit and learning impact.


The teaching hero award is the first of its kind in Higher education in Ireland. In the words of Prof Sarah Moore, Chair of the National Forum. “Outstanding teaching often happens quietly under the radar. With all our commitments to improvement and developing teaching and learning, these awards aim to shed more light on the kinds of teaching that students say they value most. This first iteration of the awards process showcases some great examples of teaching and will give rise to important conversations about students own perspectives on their learning.”

The award designed by artist Martina Cleary

The award designed by artist Martina Cleary

In the words of Prof Bairbre Redmond, Deputy chair of the National Forum

‘By engaging in this exploration and celebration of learner impact, our students have shown us that, for them, great teachers are great due to a complex combination of factors. These include intellectual excellence, academic inspiration, emotional empathy, belief in their students’ abilities and practical support. Some teachers challenge students, showing them what they are capable of. Some teachers provide much needed support and empathy at just the right time. Some teachers are intellectual motivators, some captivating storytellers while others inspire a special kind of educational engagement during and after teaching sessions. We celebrate our teaching heroes tonight by recognising the combination of gifts and energies they bring to the learning environments for which you are responsible’.

Mary McAleese

Mary McAleese

National Forum Patron Prof Mary McAleese pointed to the importance of awards such as these in recognising the deeper societal significance of excellent teaching. “Excellence in teaching is about much more than simply getting students through their exams,” she said. “It is about inspiration, passion, generosity of spirit, and a genuine desire to make a positive difference to students’ lives.”

Laura Harmon, USI President, said: “Like everyone in this room I have great teachers to be thankful for, this is a marvellous opportunity for students all around Ireland to put that thanks on the record.”

Minister for Education & Skills Ms Jan O’Sullivan TD looked forward to the awards becoming an integral part of the teaching and education calendar. “Any celebration of excellence is worthwhile and to be welcomed but these innovative awards are doubly so in that they not only recognise marvellous teachers but give their students a

voice in that process at the same time. All of us involved in the education system want to see the best outcomes for students; not just in the form of results or career paths but in terms of their overall experience and its impact on them as people. I wish to congratulate each of the 53 teachers being honoured this evening. They are all heroes.” 

School of Pharmacy


Cavanagh Pharmacy Building Room UG06 University College Cork