As both a practising primary school teacher and a children’s television presenter, it’s almost as if Home School Hub was designed for Clíona Ní Chiosáin.
However, when schools first closed last March, there wasn’t much time for creating the perfect television programme for anyone. RTÉ’s Home School Hub was up and running by early April, bringing school to the sitting room.
“It was lightening quick,” says Clíona of getting the show off the ground. “It was a really, really quick turnaround. At the time it wasn’t something you could plan for, so we just had to be all hands on deck.”
When schools went back into classrooms in September, Home School Hub continued in the form of After School Hub, but with this latest lockdown it’s back on our screens in earnest. Múinteoir Clíona is one of the show’s three presenters, all of whom are qualified primary school teachers and plan their own lessons.
Alongside presenting Home School Hub, Clíona teaches junior and senior infants in Scoil Mhuire, Moynalty National School, Co Meath. Virtually teaching in this capacity and presenting lessons to the nation is keeping her busy of late.
On the television side of things, Clíona has experience in both acting and presenting. She was the star of TG4’s award winning teen drama, Aifric and has also done theatre work. She presented several programmes on RTÉ Jr previous to Home School Hub, all of which she fits in around her teaching.
For Clíona, there’s no pull between teaching and presenting, they marry well together. “I’ve been working more so in TV since I started teaching. I’ve been doing a lot of children’s TV.
“Working in children’s TV, the teaching helps me with that; knowing what to say to them or how to work with them. When I’m in the classroom then, TV work helps you with presence and getting the children’s attention.”
With her excellent Gaeilge, you would be forgiven for thinking Clíona is from a Gaeltacht. But in fact, she grew up in Dublin. However, she did grow up speaking Irish at home with her parents, which she still does.
“I was born in Donegal and then we moved down to Dublin when I was four, but my mother is from Arranmore Island off the coast of Donegal,” explains Clíona. “Then my dad is from Blackrock, but he’s from an Irish speaking family in Dublin. So we had our own mini Gaeltacht in our house.”
Clíona had no previous acting experience, bar a school play, when she decided to audition for Aifric as a teenager, after she saw an ad in the now defunct Irish language newspaper, Foinse, looking for actors for a teen drama as Gaeilge.
After landing the role of the show’s namesake, Clíona filmed every summer from 16 to 18, going to school then for the rest of the year. Looking back now, Clíona feels Aifric was revolutionary. It was a modern Irish language drama for teenagers, which hadn’t been done before then.
“I think teenagers really loved it,” says Clíona. “It just goes to show what can happen if there’s a little funding put into programming for young people. But there hasn’t really been anything like it since in terms of programming for teenagers, as far as I can think
“When I look back and I listen to the music and stuff in it, it was very cool. Some of the style in it would probably be considered retro now, but it was what was in fashion then. Aifric had its own identity, it wasn’t cheesy or anything like that. It stood on its own and it was different to anything else.”
After school and Aifric, Clíona went to Maynooth University to study French and Irish. While completing her degree she spent a year in France and then returned to France for a subsequent year after she graduated, teaching Irish in a university in Brittany.
In between returning from France and going back to do her Master’s in education, which she finished four years ago, Clíona did some theatre work. She played Máire in the famous Irish language play, An Triail.
Clíona, in fact, has a couple of links to An Triail. The ground-breaking play of its time, dealing with single motherhood among other themes, was written by her great-grandmother, Máiread Ní Ghráda.
“It was really cool to be able to play Máire, as my great-grandmother had written her. An Triail is even more relevant nowadays. My dad used to tell me about the protests that went on outside the theatre when it was first staged.”
Now, Clíona has moved from Dublin to just outside Kells, Co Meath, where she lives with her partner. Living in the countryside has always been a goal for Clíona and she is happy with the slower pace of life. Although, she has been dragged into some farm work from time to time.
“We live very close to my partner’s family home and there’s a dairy farm there, so he’s always over. During the first lockdown last year I would have been over there myself. It’s something I never thought I would be getting into, 10 years ago I never thought I would be feeding calves and washing out troughs, but here I am,” she laughs.
From the city to the farm and teaching to presenting, Clíona is very good at merging different aspects of her life, which hopefully continues for the children (and calves) of the nation.