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by Jon WestleyDecember 6, 2021

The Top Schools Awards for Early Childhood Teacher of the Year goes to:

Claire Nagle

Clare Nagle - winner of the Top Schools Awards Eerly Learning Teacher of the Year 2020-21

An absolute star of Home Grown Nursery, Ms. Nagle is known very well to our experts in the sector and adored by her peers and children under her care. Her tenacity throughout Covid 19 in a sector hit catastrophically was a particular inspiration. She is described as “a monumental human being and absolutely amazing teacher.”

The Early Childhood / Nursery sector, perhaps more than any, has seen impacts from Covid that, for many, have proved impossible to recover from fully, if at all. This is brought into focus powerfully by the fact that more than half of our 2019-20 winners in this category have disappeared entirely following closure. The damage to this sector inflicted by Covid is serious – we do not know a single nursery that has survived that was not on the edge of facing the same risk of closure. Clare Nagle achieved independent, unqualified feedback recommendation from all our journalists, consultants and judges.

Claire Nagle has worked at Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery for 9 years. She is described to us as being, on balance, during this period the consistently most dedicated, passionate, innovative and outstanding of their teachers. Claire started her career in aviation following completing her degree in English at the University of Liverpool and it was after being offered a position with Emirates that her journey in Dubai began. It was as Claire became a mother and spent more time around children, observing their growth and development, that she realised that her interest and passion now lay within the early years.

Not one to take things slowly, Claire immediately signed to join a number of courses within the Early Years segment and became dedicated to their successful completion. It was as Claire was enrolling her children into nursery that she learnt of Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery and applied for a Teacher Assistant Position in 2012. Successful in her application, Claire started her Early Years Career and began to advance to a teacher within a year after completing her Cache 3 course with EYES ME while working as a Teacher Assistant.

During this period she was described as “a teacher who was excited, passionate, flexible and eager to learn and grow.” Over the following years, Claire “has demonstrated an outstanding ability and natural flair for teaching within the Early Years and, on countless occasions, has unknowingly gone above and beyond for children in her class and their families.”

During her 9 years at Home Grown she has made a positive impact on over 200 children’s lives, “giving them the best early years start that they could possibly have.”

Every child in Claire’s classes have their own personalised and individual learning plan with the purpose of nurturing, guiding, challenging and giving the child the opportunity to meet their fullest potential. This is coupled with whole class goals and attainments, as Claire believes firmly that children rise together and need to help one another with their achievements. Mutual respect, kindness and unlimited support are instilled in every child and the outcome is an overwhelming success in every developmental area and parents who are give their entire trust over to her.

Parents are invited to be immersed in every detail of their child’s learning journey resulting in a partnership between parent and teacher which is entirely unique to Claire’s classroom. “Claire engages and involves parents on every level and connects with parents on a deeper level than one would expect of any teacher.”

Her children’s siblings and parents were regularly invited to story-telling sessions and to share their ideas on how to adapt the curriculum to enhance the learning experience for every child.

There are very few CPD courses that Claire is not the first to sign up for. As well as in house and mandatory training at Home Grown, Claire is determined to enhance her personal knowledge to the best of her ability by completing additional courses every year that are always selected to provide additional skills and knowledge for whole class and individual children’s benefit.

It was in 2016 when Claire was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Despite this devastating and life changing news, Claire’s focus was not distracted from how she could keep her classroom running with as little impact on her children as possible. “We were all so inspired by Claire’s positive attitude and concern for her children. Claire made it her mission during this time to take as little time off as possible and throughout her whole cancer journey only took a total of 10 days off work (during which she was in touch every day, sending lesson plans and messages to her children).

This was a testimony to Claire’s dedication to her class and Home Grown and just one small example of how, no matter what is happening in her life, she goes above and beyond for the nursery.”

In early 2020, Claire began to have concerns about the speech and language development of a child in her class. As the parents of this child had been through some challenging circumstances, Claire knew that this family would need as much support and guidance as possible to ensure that the child was provided with the right help she needed. After talking to the parents in her compassionate and empathetic manner Claire assisted the parents by introducing them to a Therapy Centre and helping and supporting them with appointments and continuation of exercises within the classroom and at home.

To strengthen their support, Claire organised Speech and language workshops for parents of the entire class so those parents could, in turn, demonstrate their solidarity and give them the tools to talk to their own children about how they could help their friend in class. This provided the parents and their child with an immense amount of comfort and a support system that lasts with them till today.

“This is the kind of transformative Early Years Education that Claire provides to every single child.”

There are many examples of her unique care and devotion to children. It may seem trivial but she makes it a priority to ensure that both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards are always sent to parents. She makes notes of humorous and uplifting statements made by children and sends these regularly to parents.

Teachers, generally in this sector, do not do these and other similar things with such attention to detail. These take time and work outside core hours – teaching early years for Claire is a vocation, not an exercise in working for a life outside.

Claire also plays a key role in supporting the Home Grown charity in India, Harmony House, where the nursery assists in providing “slum children with education and many other needed services.” COVID19 brought challenges and stresses that saw teachers across the nursery needing support, guidance and reassurance. “This left the management team often short of time and lacking resources to be able to assist every team member – whilst it was struggling for the very survival of the nursery itself.”

Claire, during this time, “was a pillar of strength for us, offering her unlimited time, assisting the Head Teacher with writing policies, teacher training, setting up classrooms and PPR stations, preparing for inspections and offering her support to anyone that needed help.” It was during this time that Home Grown introduced its online learning programme which left many team members feeling overwhelmed and anxious. “Claire immediately took it upon herself to quickly learn everything there was to know about the programme we were using, so that she once again could help and assist our Head Teacher with training and supporting individuals through the learning process, which in turn took the pressure off the management team and relieved the stress of teachers which saw many close to breaking point.”

Claire “took additional work-load away from teachers struggling with their online classes so that they could focus on their own classes.” “Claire instinctively knew how to make the children feel comfortable with all of the new COVID restrictions and policies in the classroom. Small yet thoughtful gestures included making a character out of her thermometer by giving it a name and costume, as well as using it as a learning tool in Mathematics.

Everything within her classroom was carefully planned and considered, allowing the management to use this as an example to roll out to all of our classrooms across both branches. Even on occasions where her team members contracted COVID 19, Claire’s compassion and empathy drove her to help keep those classes going online, by taking on additional Zoom classes and assisting the teachers which was an immense support for the children and parents in those classes and well as the nursery management.”

Claire produced the graduation ceremonies during COVID against all the odds: “this was a labour of love and a project that took a huge amount of time, effort, creativity and learning new skills. It goes without saying that this video has become one of the most important and significant memories of her children’s early years.”

Clare Nagle wins the Best Early Years Teacher Award for her extraordinary impact on children at Home Grown Eco Nursery (Pictured) in Dubai

A variety of comments supporting Miss Nagle follow – and we were inundated. 

“I hope this email finds you well. I have been informed that Claire Nagle has been nominated for best nursery teacher. Claire has been my son’s FS1 teacher and she has been absolutely amazing! Her diligence, professionalism and hard work have been second to none. Her demeanour is a perfect match for an FS class in a nursery setting. She perfectly balances a warm and caring approach with some more seriousness, discipline and structure one would expect in an FS setting in a school environment. Thus, for children who may not be ready yet to join ‘big school’ this has been fantastic.

And among all of the above she makes learning and coming to nursery fun and engaging! We fully support Claire’s nomination and wish her best of luck. If you require anything further, please do not hesitate to contact me.”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“Claire is one of our longest standing teachers at Home Grown and has made a huge impact on so many of our children’ and their families lives as well as being such an amazing team member for us.

Our success as a nursery is purely thanks to our incredible team and Claire plays such an integral role in that. Claire embodies the very essence of all that Home Grown stands for… love, compassion, dedication, and a drive to always exceed expectations in ALL areas.

Miss Claire is the heart and the beat at Home Grown and we will always be grateful to her for the outstanding service she has given her children, her parents, our team and the nursery.”

Lucy Bruce. Co-founder. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“I don’t have words to express my gratitude for all your effort and dedication with the kids this year, and in particular with Adam. I think your love, affection and genuine care for them has been a blessing for them and us parents!”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“You truly are fantastic at what you do – always energetic and positive! I appreciate all the support you have given me as well!”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“Huge thank you – you’ve gone beyond the role of Todd’s teacher and become a friend too; from all the love and care you have shown Todd to being someone I had to lean on in difficult times – all means so much. You truly are a very special person; a born teacher and one of life’s gems!”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“I hope you know what a truly special teacher you are. You display such love, understanding, care and beautiful calm that the children can’t help but absorb. So, so much love and respect.”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“Thank you so much for being a wonderful teacher to Sammy this year. I can’t imagine leaving him in a more caring, stimulating and fun environment. He has enjoyed every minute- thank you!”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“I am so glad it was you who guided Louis through his year at Home Grown. You are the most wonderful, kind and caring person who provided Louis with everything he needed and more. We will never forget you.”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“You are a truly special teacher. Amelie has thrived this year and I have so appreciated your advice and guidance (for her speech). Amelie says she loves you lots!”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“Our Ms Claire… what a pleasure that you were part of our lives in this Tomatoes experience! Not enough words to thank for all the learning and love. We’ll miss you!”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“What can I say? You have been the best teacher to Charlie I could have imagined.

We wish you were coming with us to his new school.

Thank you for starting him on his reading journey. He loves to read and knows he’s ‘pretty good’ too.”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“Ms Nagle has triumphed through a difficult year and has made it an incredible learning journey for her students. She does her daily job with ease, teaching the FS1 EYFS curriculum. She always has the bandwidth to provide individualized focused attention on many ancillary areas of concern.

My son Kais can now read short words, write, and has developed an amazing emotional quotient during his time with Claire. I am so impressed and proud of his progress, and I attribute much of that to Ms. Claire. He has done his milestone stick man drawings, his read write including phonics, blending and writing, he sings in French and Arabic …. and he shares!

In all these areas she delivered for my child over and above anything I expected.

She is incredible and I hope she is recognised and honoured by SchoolsCompared.”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“Claire is incredibly patient, enthusiastic, encouraging and full of energy. She takes the time to get to know each and every child in the class and encourages them to excel and strive in any challenging areas. My child has flourished under her care and he is now ready for new challenges at ‘big’ school. She is a real asset to the nursery.”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“We would like to nominate Ms Claire Nagle for Best Early Childhood Teacher in the UAE 2021 Award. Ms Nagle is FS1 teacher for our child this year 2021 at Home Grown Nursery. She has been nine years with Home Grown Nursery and this year we were lucky to have Ms Nagle as our child’s teacher in our daughter’s last year before she ventures off to ‘Big School’.

We believe Ms Nagle makes a great preschool teacher and a great candidate for the Award. She is the mother of two children herself and one can easily notice her “big love” for all children. She can effectively teach the preschool curriculum and at the same time create a welcoming classroom by showing enthusiasm for her students’ education needs that come from her heart. She has a great passion for educating young children and a strong desire to make a real difference to their lives.

It was Ms Nagle who noticed that my child was ready to start reading. She was the one to help develop my daughter’s reading skills by creating word cards, by reading simple books, by learning sight words, by handing over additional material to us and by giving us hints on how to help our child with reading. It was only with the help of Ms Nagle my child started reading before she turned four years old.

Ms Nagle is not only a great teacher but she has a great personality who is always smiling and happy to help and who is trying to instil a feeling of a family within the classroom. Because of this the learning process inside her class is never formal but rather enjoyable and fun.

We believe that Ms Claire Nagle makes a strong candidate for the Best Early Years Teacher Award as she has all characteristics of a great preschool teacher and can ensure a happy, safe and nurturing environment for the children.

Please, please can she win?

She, above all, deserves to be recognised.”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“There is so much to say about Ms Claire. She is truly a fantastic teacher, one that cares so much about the children and parents. As much as she did to put our kids at ease in her care, she did just as much for us parents.

If we were unable to make it to pick up, she would make sure to send us a little message or note sharing a cute instance or funny story concerning our kids.

If she knew your child was interested in something (in our case my son was a big space buff), she would send us a little article or video that made her think of him.

Most of all, I’ve never seen a teacher check in with the kids months after they have graduated her classroom – but Miss Claire did! She wanted to know how they were doing in “Big School” and that truly touched us deeply. Something no other teacher has done – we will ALWAYS remember that.

Miss Nagle is deserving of this award.

I hope she knows, regardless of whether she wins or not, she gets 1st place from all her students and families – and that includes us.”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

“I can always depend on Claire to provide me with the support and backing that a head teacher needs.

Claire instinctively knows when I need a hand or a soundboard and always offers solutions to her own challenges.

Claire is an outstanding teacher, team member, colleague and confidante and she deserves an award every, single, day.”

Eithne Mulhern – Head Teacher and Director of Education. Home Grown Nursery.

Our warmest congratulations to Miss Claire Nagle, recipient of The Top Schools Award for Early Learning Teacher of the Year in the UAE 2021-22. It’s an extraordinary, hugely deserved achievement. You should rightly feel very proud. As a sector we should take from Claire’s achievement the collective lesson that what we do together as an Early Learning sector makes a difference – and that teachers absolutely matter. You are appreciated – and loved.

Our final words go, fittingly, to a parent:

“No words are enough. I write this with tears in my eyes, thank you for making my daughter who she is today.”

Parent. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery.

© 2021. All rights reserved.

Read more about Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery here.

Read the WhichSchoolAdvisor independent review of Home Grown Nursery for Parents here.

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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