Teacher Biographies

Suzanne Dunleavy McDonough, ADCRG began Irish dancing at age five with the Pike School in Yonkers, New York. Beginning her regional and national competitive career at age eight, Suzanne placed at each annual regional Oireachtas and North American Championships, and was the New England Regional Champion several times. In 2003, Suzanne came in Ninth Place at the World Championships in Killarney and took Second Place at the North American Irish Dancing Championships. Suzanne took her TCRG exam in 2003 and became a registered Irish dance teacher, beginning with just four students in a friend’s basement in Hingham. Since that time, Suzanne and Theresa, later joined by Pat, Michael and Kathleen, have successfully coached many award wining ceili teams and soloists and recently, World medal holders. In 2013, Suzanne successfully passed the adjudicator’s exam and became an ADCRG, certified to judge at Irish dance competitions, both locally and internationally.
Suzanne has conducted guest workshops on Irish Dancing with other dancing schools throughout the United States. She has performed with Cherish the Ladies, the Wolftones and Black 47 and at venues including New York's Radio City Music Hall. A graduate of Boston College ('99) and Boston College Law School ('02), Suzanne is an Assistant District Attorney for the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office. She and her husband, Matt, live in Marshfield with their three children: Cara, Coleman and Caitlin.

Theresa Shaffer Wilkinson, TCRG began dancing at age four at the Burke School of Irish Dance in Youngstown, Ohio, with legendary instructor Tessie Burke ADCRG. During her successful competitive career, Theresa consistently qualified for the World Championships, where she competed twice during her career, and was also ranked top 5 in the Midwest Region and top 15 in North America. As a teenager, Theresa began working with younger students at the Burke school. She quickly found a passion in teaching dance. She became a registered teacher (TCRG) through the Irish Dance Commission (An Coimisiun le Rince Gaelacha) in Ireland. Theresa continued dancing in performances with Trinity Dance Company and Irish music groups such as Solas and Cherish the Ladies. Theresa continued as an assistant at the Burke School until her move to the Boston area in 2002. She and Suzanne began their partnership and in late 2005 when they founded the Dunleavy Shaffer School.
Music and dance are a family affair for Theresa - her father Mike Shaffer is a world-renowned feis musician, as was Theresa's late grandfather Gordon Shaffer. Theresa and her father made several recordings of Irish dance practice music, and they are in continuous demand to play at local, regional and national Irish dance competitions. She also continues to pass on the family heritage to her two children, Kiera and Theo, who both dance and play music. Outside of Irish dance, Theresa is a licensed preschool teacher and resides with her husband, Philip, in Quincy MA.

Patrick M. Connolly, TCRG, began Irish dancing at the age of fourteen, after years of attending feiseanna with his younger sisters. Patrick’s interest piqued when they joined the Smith Academy of Irish Dance under the instruction of Michael J. Smith ADCRG. Although competing at regional and national competitions at the highest level in solos, it was the intricacies of ceili’s and figures that sparked Patrick’s passion for teaching. It was also that interest which took him to Ireland twice, competing successfully in the World Championships of Irish Dance. Patrick has performed with the Chieftains, The Wolfetones, and Michael Flatley.
Patrick had a brief hiatus from the Irish dancing world, but he again embraced the art when his daughter Siobhan showed the same interest in dancing.The passion for teaching was sparked again and Patrick became a registered teacher (TCRG). Most recently, Patrick has been Co-Chairperson of three regional championships, one national championship, and served as local Chairperson for the World Championships held in Boston in 2013. Patrick lives in Dorchester with his wife Grace and their two children, Siobhan & Timothy.

Michael Boyle, TCRG, became involved with Irish music and dance very early on to experience his strong Irish and Scottish heritage. Studying dance with Rita O’Shea ADCRG at the O’Shea Chaplin Academy, one of North Americas premiere Irish dance academies, it was only natural that Michael quickly claimed various local, regional, national and international championship titles. Thanks to his competitive success in New England and North America, Michael was highlighted in advertisements for Aer Lingus and The Irish Tourism Board. He has been featured on The Discovery Channel, NPR, the BBC, ESPN’s Sportscenter, and NBA’s Inside Stuff for his outstanding achievements in dance.
He continues to share his talent with new audiences, traveling throughout North America, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and China performing at numerous festivals and workshops. Michael has collaborated with many legends in the industry including The Chieftains, Solas, Natalie McMaster, Seamus Connolly, and Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart. Michael has recently been touring with the foremost traditional Irish music band, Cherish the Ladies. With Cherish, he has performed at many celebrated festivals including Milwaukee’s Irish Fest, and Glasgow’s Celtic Connections in addition to collaborating with numerous symphonies throughout the world. Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH. Michael has taught in Belfast, Ireland and delighted to be part of the award winning Dunleavy-Shaffer School of Irish Dance.

Kathleen Boyle McGonigle began dancing at a young age under the instruction of Rita O’Shea, ADCRG in Brighton, MA. She continued dancing and competing with the O’Shea-Chaplin School of Irish into her college years. Kathleen had the unique opportunity to travel to the Soviet Union to dance and share the Irish/American culture and traditions while in high school. She is most proud of her Ceili and Choreography Figure Dancing placing both on the regional and national levels. She believes team dancing is unifying and beautiful and truly enjoyable.
Irish Dance is a family tradition for the Boyle family. Her sisters, Marytheresa and Patricia and her brother Michael, TCRG share their love of dance with the next generation of step dancers. Most of her oldest and dearest friends she first met while Irish Step Dancing. Kathleen is a graduate of Saint Anselm College and Emmanuel College. Currently, she is a Boston Public Schools teacher, recreational runner, youth soccer coach and devoted mother of three; two of her children are continuing the tradition of Irish dance at Dunleavy Shaffer. She and her husband Kevin live in Braintree. She is thrilled to be a member of the Dunleavy Shaffer Family!