Recently the 2020 Region Three Annual Education Research Conference, hosted jointly by the three Education Centres in the South East, Waterford, Kilkenny and Co. Wexford, took place online. The theme this year was ‘Supporting EAL Students: What Works?’. A number of experienced teachers and researchers who work with and support international students in learning English presented papers on this essential and challenging education topic. Over eighty teachers participated in this online event.
The opening address was given by Narrell Byrne, EAL Co-Ordinator at Mount Sion Secondary School, Waterford, followed by Aoife Merrins, Primary teacher and PhD student in DCU, Caitriona O' Reilly, Principal, Good Counsel G.N.S., Ferrybank and Marie Delaney, Co-Founder of Trauma Responsive Education. The keynote address was presented by Dr. Fiodhna Gardiner–Hyland, Lecturer in Language and Literacy Education at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. In order to introduce student voice to the proceedings, students from Mount Sion Secondary School shared their experiences of being supported with EAL through a video link.
During the proceedings the 2nd Annual Louise Madigan Memorial Research Bursary was presented in memory of Louise Madigan, former Project and Course Administrator at Waterford Teachers' Centre, who co-ordinated this Conference from 2016 – 2018. This annual award is jointly funded by the three Education Centres and presented to a teacher based in Region Three pursuing a Postgraduate degree at Masters or Doctoral level.
This year, the applications were once again adjudicated by the independent panel comprising Dr. Gerard Farrelly, PDST Advisor, Dr. Pauline Egan, Director of Schools, KCETB and Chairperson, Dr. Helen Murphy, Head of School of Lifelong and Education, WIT. The panel decided to award the bursary jointly to Grainne Mulcahy, a secondary teacher at Gorey Community College who is carrying out Doctoral research at TCD into the impact of Junior Cycle reform, and John Murphy, a PE teacher at St. Mary's Secondary School, New Ross, and doctoral student at DCU. John’s 'Physical Activity and Wellbeing Study' seeks to examine the associations between physical activity and mental health outcomes in Irish adolescents.
The recipients were congratulated by the Directors of the three hosting Centres, John O' Sullivan, Kilkenny Education Centre, Lorraine O' Gorman, Co. Wexford Education Centre and Assumpta O' Neill, Waterford Teachers' Centre. John and Grainne both expressed their thanks and delight in being chosen as Bursary recipients for 2020 and also their appreciation to Louise’s family; her husband, Tom Carroll and children Cormac and Orla, for the opportunity to benefit from this award in her name. In accepting her award, Grainne stated ‘I am honoured to receive the bursary this year. Louise was a lovely person and it is humbling to receive the bursary in her name. Though a small comfort for her family, friends and colleagues, her memory is alive in the projects this bursary supports. In a very tangible way, she contributes to build a better world for students and teachers’.
The former Director of Waterford Teachers' Centre and Conference organiser, Dr. Celia Walsh, congratulated John and Grainne and also paid tribute to Louise’s significant talents and skills and her friendship and good humour which are sadly missed by all Centre staff and teachers in the WTC region. The 2019 Bursary winner, Michelle Bolger, a teacher Knockbeg College, Carlow, presented the participants with an update on the progress of her Master’s Degree research.
In bringing proceedings to a conclusion, Dr. Walsh thanked all those presenters who shared their experience and expertise in the area of EAL and also those who assisted in the organisation of the Conference, particularly Laura Zalcmane, Conference Co-Ordinator, who ensured the smooth running of all presentations. The Conference ended with a beautiful performance by the Mount Sion Choir under the guidance of their Director, Colette Kearney.