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Donna-Maria Tohill

St. Mary’s CBGS, Glen Road. Belfast

Subject: Biology.

Age: 52.

Your place of birth: Belfast.

Where You Live: Antrim Road, Belfast.

First Job: Shop assistant.

What it taught me: To hold counsel, be pleasant and minimise confrontation with others.

Family/status: Married.

Best advice anyone ever gave you: My parents have been very influential in my life. They have shaped the person I am today in terms of how I interact with others and how I view my duties and responsibilities. They led by example, respecting the needs of other. This included working for numerous voluntary and charity organisations. The motto at home was always: If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right.

Best advice you could give someone thinking of a teaching career: Voluntary work will provide invaluable experience of working with young people. This can be gained through youth clubs, children’s liturgy groups in the church, Scout movements and homework clubs or as coaches at local sports clubs. These activities will enable you to see the challenges that face the youth of today and allow you to observe a variety of strategies that can be implemented to ensure children remain stimulated and enthused. It would also be beneficial to return to your primary and post primary school to talk with your teachers and volunteer to help with after-school clubs, school shows or peer mentoring programmes that operate in some schools. If possible, you should try to secure a work experience placement in a school.


Donna-Maria is in charge of the Senior School in St. Mary’s CBGS where she has been teaching for 31 years. She is married to Des, a past pupil, and they have two teenage daughters, Niamh and Clár-Bríd.

She joined the Scoil Mhuire staff in 1982 and taught in the Science Department in Barrack Street. During the nine years she spent there, she had “the pleasure of working with wonderful students and learning from inspiring and motivational teachers who provided invaluable support and guidance for me as a Beginning Teacher”.

She says the skills she acquired in her early years at the school shaped her as a teacher and in turn helped her as Teacher Tutor to support the newly appointed staff to St. Mary’s as they commence their own teaching careers.

“Here in St. Mary’s we offer a range of programmes that reach out to the less privileged and marginalised in our local and global communities,” adds Donna-Maria. “I oversee the organisation and management of our Project Zambia immersion programme and had the privilege of leading the team to Lusaka at Easter 2011.

“This whole school work was validated by the Aisling Award and acknowledged by the Assembly International Development Group.” Donna-Maria enjoys travelling, cooking and reading.