In The Picture — 24 May 2021

Lord of the Dance



St Mary’s BEd (Batchelor of Education) second-year student, Olivia McQuaid




St Mary’s BEd (Batchelor of Education) second-year student, Olivia McQuaid, is featured in the Irish News School Edition this week as part of the College's Critical Media Literacy Project.

Olivia discusses looking forward to making a career out of inspiring and encouraging children in their learning. She has a passion for Irish dancing and helping young dancers discover their talents, which is what drew her into studying PE (Physical Education) as her main subject at St Mary’s. Olivia, who is from Banbridge, County Down, travelled to Taiwan last year to perform with Lord of the Dance, conscientiously balancing dancing with her teacher education studies at St Mary’s.


Name: Olivia McQuaid                                             Age: 21

Education: Primary teaching with PE at St Mary’s University College, Belfast

County: Down

What is your most memorable moment from being at school?
As part of my A-Level PE in my final year of school, myself and a few other girls organised a GAA skills day for the first-year pupils. This is definitely a stand out memory from my school days. It was a brilliant day with such a sense of community, and the event has continued to run each year ever since.

What is your favourite memory of being in education?
I have many memories from my first year at St Mary’s. First year at University is such an exciting time in life, I met so many new people who are now close friends. I have definitely missed seeing them all on campus throughout online learning, especially the craic we have in our PE classes. I still have two years left at St Mary’s and I have a feeling the best is yet to come.

What is your favourite Irish Dancing memory?
One of my favourite dancing memories is winning the All Ireland’s in 2017, I had worked so hard and to see it pay off was very rewarding. Another memory which I couldn’t go without mentioning, was performing with ‘Lord of the Dance’ in Taiwan in December 2020. Given COVID-19, I hadn’t had the opportunity to dance on a stage in almost a full year so it was a privilege to be able to perform on stage for an audience on the other side of the world. Truly an experience I’ll never forget.

What made you want to become a teacher?
I have always helped in my Irish dancing class with younger students, and have found it deeply rewarding and fulfilling to see children achieve their goals. I decided to complete my work experience in a primary school and just loved it. No day was ever the same. After that, making a career out of inspiring and encouraging children in their learning was a no brainer for me. One thing in particular that stood out for me was watching children discover talents and often seeing them excel in something they had never expected. This is what drew me towards PE and I remain passionate about instilling a love for PE in children, especially young girls.

What is the most positive habit you have developed in the past year?
I would say that has to be resilience. The determination to get up every day and attack it with a positive mindset. This year has been challenging for everyone and it is not always easy to get up and get on with things- especially when they aren’t unfolding as you would have imagined. Finding reason to be positive and joyful every day has definitely been more important than ever for me over the past twelve months.

How do you stay positive while being a full-time student and Irish dancing?
Dancing competitively definitely requires a great deal of commitment. Between classes, personal practice, strength & conditioning and then competition days, it can be difficult to do it all. Making sure I always strike the right balance between my dancing and my studies is important to me and helps me maintain a positive mindset in both. It definitely helps that I love both and so I am happy to make the time for them. I also find being well planned helps me to avoid stressful situations. For example, around exam time I usually plan to reduce my
competition schedule.

What would you say to pupils to ensure they have a positive mindset in life?
Appreciate every day as it comes and never stop learning. The day we think we know it all, is the day we stop growing and becoming the person we are destined to be.