NALA Board

NALA’s Board meets seven times a year and is made up of the following members:

Margaret Kelly, Chairperson

Margaret Kelly retired from the Department of Education and Skills in 2012. Her work there included responsibility for policy, funding and monitoring of programmes aided under the European Social Fund, (1989 -1998), Further and Adult Education, (1998-2003) and more recently, curriculum policy and developments at first and second level education. During the 1990s and up to 2003 Margaret was the Principal Officer with responsibility for  a major expansion of Further Education and Training – Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS), Youthreach, Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) and adult literacy provision, and the introduction of the Back to Education Initiative, the Adult Educational Guidance  Service and the appointment of Community Education Facilitators. She was the education representative on various inter-Departmental Committees on tacking poverty and unemployment, homelessness, childcare, and meeting skills needs.

Maria O'Gorman, Vice Chairperson

Maria O’Gorman is from Listowel in County Kerry. For many years she worked as an accountant for a manufacturing company. She does a lot of work in the adult education sector and represents adult learners on a variety of committees and she is on the board of Kerry Education and Training Board (ETB). Maria is also on the board of Irish Rural Link, which is the national network representing rural communities.

Pat Ayton, Honorary Secretary

Pat Ayton has been involved in adult literacy since 1980 when she completed tutor training with the City of Dublin Adult Literacy Service. She worked as a volunteer tutor and later as a group tutor, delivering classes in literacy and numeracy in Colaiste Dhulaigh , Coolock. In May 1991 Pat was appointed Adult Literacy Organiser on a fulltime basis, with responsibility for adult literacy provision for the greater Coolock/Darndale area. She continued in that role until November 2016, when she took early retirement from the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB), in order to pursue other things. Pat holds a BSc in Education and Training and an MSc in Education and Training Management from DCU. Pat has lectured on the Education and Training degree programme in DCU. She has been committed to adult literacy and improving services offered to adults returning to education in order to improve their skills and their life chances for 36 years. On retirement her passion has not waned at all and it is for that reason that she continues to be actively involved in NALA.

Ciaran Casey, Honorary Treasurer

Ciaran Casey is the Head of Digital Channels at AIB where he has responsibility for Mobile and Internet Banking, iBusiness Banking and Group Websites. Prior to this he held a number of roles across the Products and Propositions functions with his most recent previous role being Group Head of Deposit and Current Account Products. Ciaran is a Chartered Banker and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charterholder. Ciaran joined the Board of NALA in March 2020.

Members of the Board

Aoife Foley

Aoife Foley is the National Education Worker with National Traveller Money Advice and Budgeting Service (NTMABS). Before joining NTMABS she worked in adult and community education and has a background in human rights law. Aoife is a passionate advocate for literacy, numeracy and digital skills and has worked as a voluntary literacy tutor in Kerry and Dublin.

Catherine Devlin

Catherine Devlin is an adult literacy student from Buncrana in County Donegal. She worked in a shirt factory from the age of 15 years having left school early after struggled daily at school. Catherine started back to education in 2013 on the ‘Learning for Living’ programme with Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB). She worked her way to doing the Junior Certificate through day, night and summer classes. She really enjoyed learning this second time around.  She found that tutors had kindness, patience and an understanding of pupils who had struggled at school from an early age. This made going back to education a pure joy for her. In 2017, Catherine gave a talk at an ETB event in Letterkenny and then joined NALA’s Student Subcommittee. She is currently vice-chairperson of the Subcommittee. She looks forward to being the link between the Student Subcommittee and the Board and learning more about all NALA’s work.

Dr Eleanor Neff

Dr Eleanor Neff has worked in adult education for 21 years with a focus on literacy work for the past 14 years; beginning as a voluntary literacy tutor with Kerry Education and Training Board (KETB).

As a tutor with KETB, she delivered a wide range of literacy courses and worked on the Refugee Resettlement Programme.  In 2020, she worked with NALA’s Distance Learning team and on NALA’s Marking Progress project. Eleanor joined the Literacy Development Centre in Waterford Institute of Technology in August 2021.

Elma Teahan

Elma Teahan is a director in the Financial Services Audit department in KPMG. A chartered accountant, Elma also holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from University College Cork (UCC).

She has 12 years’ experience providing audit, assurance, accountancy and advisory services to clients in insurance, investment management, banking and other sectors. Elma is an advocate of education and inclusion and diversity.

She was co-opted to NALA’s Board in December 2020 to make a difference in education by supporting adult literacy and numeracy in Ireland. Elma is also a member of the Audit, Risk and Finance sub- committee of the Board.

Frances Ward

Frances Ward has been involved in Adult Literacy since 1977. She set up one of the first VEC supported Adult Literacy services in Crumlin College as part of the night school.

In 1994 she was appointed fulltime Adult Literacy Organiser for Dublin City South West. This allowed the service to move out into the community. Frances believed that adults coming back to improve their literacy skills deserved the best and, to ensure the quality of tuition, was involved in developing and constantly improving the Tutor Training Course delivered to Volunteer Tutors.

She was active in setting up the Adult Literacy Organisers Association and was Chair of NALA from 2003-2007.

Maurice Sammon

Maurice Sammon knows all about the fear and stigma around having unmet literacy needs. He left school early and went straight into work without the ability to read or write, and spent the next forty years hiding that fact.

Since returning to education in Waterford ETB he has never looked back and now works to raise awareness of services and supports available nationwide.

He has taken part in national literacy awareness campaigns and has done countless interviews with the Irish media to promote the benefits of literacy learning. He is currently a member of NALA’s student subcommittee.

Patricia (Trish) Nolan

Patricia (Trish) Nolan has worked in the public library service for over 30 years and has an active interest in adult literacy. During her time in Kilkenny Library Service she worked as a volunteer tutor and brought these skills to the workplace. Projects she developed include the Six Book Challenge and Storysacks initiatives – both of which were shortlisted for Aontas Star Awards.

Currently she works as Executive Librarian with Carlow County Library Service, and is very active in her role as the Right to Read Coordinator. She is currently managing the Literacy-Friendly County Carlow research project which is due to launch in May 2022.

Paula Tiller

Paula Tiller is Regional Literacy Coordinator for Kerry under the Adult Literacy for Life Strategy. She has been involved in literacy since 2001, volunteering as a one-to-one literacy tutor and working with groups and working with communities before that. Having literacy as social practice at the heart of her teaching, she has co-developed themed literacy programmes in personal development, making and selling crafts, creative writing,  and biodiversity and sustainability.

She is an advocate for integrating literacy and Universal Design for Learning across the adult and further education sector. She worked as a NALA distance learning tutor and has delivered workshops at NALA student days and tutor days.  She has completed the SETU Waterford Higher Certificate or arts in Literacy, and is currently engaged in a Master’s in Education that she hopes will contribute to environmental literacy being recognised as a core strand of literacy.

Tom O'Mara

Tom O’Mara is Head of Digital Education in University College Cork. He manages the Centre for Digital Education, which provides support to staff around the best application of technology to learning.

An educator for over 27 years, Tom has worked as an English language teacher at third level in Thailand, Egypt and Ireland; Lead Instructional Designer in elearning companies; Series Editor, Instructional Designer in TV production; and Distance Education Coordinator for nine years with NALA.

Tom led the design and development of www.writeon.ie, supported the development of 14 prime time TV series about literacy on RTÉ, and managed a team of 30 literacy tutors.

Tracey Reilly

Tracey Reilly is a member of the Traveller community. Tracey was an early school leaver but continued in education through different routes, going to third level education as a mature student and successfully completed her degree with a First-class Honours.

She completed a Bachelor Degree in Community & Youth Work in Maynooth University. She previously worked in a number of jobs,
including with Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre. Tracey is currently a full-time Education Development Worker in Pavee Point.

She is passionate about human rights, equality, and education and as a Traveller woman sees the importance of education in progressing the rights of Travellers.

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