School’s Out with St Catherine’s School teacher Jenny De Nardis

Jenny de Nardis from St Catherine's School in Toorak. Photo: Scott McNaughton

Jenny de Nardis from St Catherine's School in Toorak. Photo: Scott McNaughton

About Jenny

Jenny De Nardis wears many different hats at St Catherine’s School in Toorak. Not only does she, as physical education head, encourage students to be active, she also challenges them in the classroom to use technology in creative ways.

Who inspired you to become a teacher?

Several of my primary school teachers inspired me to teach. My year 3 teacher in Townsville had a unique way of helping us learn fractions by chopping up fruit.

Another teacher in Brisbane introduced me to gymnastics and it became a big part of my life.

I competed in rhythmic gymnastics at a state and national level until the age of 25 and I became a very passionate rhythmic gymnastics coach, which led me to realising my love of teaching children and my decision to become a primary school teacher.

What was your very first day of teaching like?

My first job was actually as a specialist music teacher in the western suburbs of Melbourne with a government school. At that time, teachers were plentiful so getting a job in Melbourne was difficult.

So I was feeling considerably fortunate yet apprehensive, considering I was physical education-trained with very little music background; it was quite nerve-wracking.

The music room was a small closed-in room at the back of the library, which was also not ideal because of the noise we made in the library!

Tell us about how you’re using technology in education

As well as my role in physical education I also teach year 5. I am always looking for new ideas to enhance student learning.

A chance meeting and discussion with a colleague introduced me to several ideas and, in conjunction with my fellow year 5 teaching colleague, Genius Hour was launched at St Catherine’s.

Inspired by search engine giant Google, our Genius Hour allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. Coding, augmented reality and virtual reality apps are forms of technology I have introduced.

We also make movies using photos of the various happenings of the school day. These are always a highlight during school assembly.

It is so rewarding to introduce new technologies to my students and see how quickly they engage, interact and work their way through them. Imagination, creative thinking and problem solving are some of the skills our children need to take on this ever-evolving journey of education.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the relationships that are built with my students, families and school staff. Helping students achieve and inspiring them to learn and to try new skills and sports is a major highlight for me as well as witnessing the students stretch themselves and go beyond their perceived potential both in the classroom and in physical education.

What’s the most challenging part?

The most challenging part of my job is juggling my numerous roles. Apart from heading the Physical Education Department, teaching physical education and year 5, I also co-ordinate the Learn to Swim Program.

Staffing of swim teachers can be challenging, however I am enjoying learning new things.

Have you a funny classroom story you can share?

The most recent funny story is from year 5 camp where the girls had to set goals for the camp; one of my students told me my goal had to be to improve my joke delivery!


The Ex-Files … St Catherine’s School

Emma Thompson

  • Class of 2015
  • Student, Monash University


Photo: supplied

Photo: supplied

After graduating from St Catherine’s School last year, Emma has been accepted to Monash University, studying a bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (honours).

Emma says the course is exciting and she is following her life’s passion to study and work in the medical field.

Even when Emma was young, she always looked forward to visiting the doctor and is fascinated by the human body and its complex systems.

Attending St Catherine’s has ensured she highly values giving back to the community. So much so that Emma is planning a trip to Africa in 2017 to provide medical assistance in remote communities.

Georgina Partridge

  • Class of 1987
  • Architect


Photo: supplied

Photo: supplied

Georgina Partridge studied at Deakin University, gaining her bachelor of architecture after finishing her schooling at St Catherine’s. She became a registered architect in 1996.

Early in her career, Georgina worked in development and project management with some of Melbourne’s most respected development companies before moving into high-end residential architectural practices, also in Melbourne.

In 1999 Georgina started work as a sole practitioner, setting up Partridge + Grey Architecture with business partner Rebecca Grey in 2010.

The firm focuses on renovations of period houses. Their vision remains to create homes with soul and functionality for families to live in and enjoy.

Fran Derham

  • Class of 2001
  • Film director and producer


Photo: supplied

Photo: supplied

Fran Derham had no idea what she wanted to do after school. Initially it was acting, but her mum wisely pointed out that actors are more often unemployed than not.

Her favourite subjects at school were art, drama and psychology, so she studied a bachelor of arts, majoring in psychology and art history at the University of Melbourne, and a bachelor of communications, majoring in creative advertising, at RMIT.

It wasn’t until making surf documentary First Love that Fran found her true passion was filmmaking. Since then she has become a director and producer in her own right and started production company Cos We Can with her best friend. Her dream is to one day win an Oscar.

Betty Shao

  • Class of 2005
  • Legal associate


Photo: supplied

Photo: supplied

Betty graduated from St Catherine’s School as dux in 2005, appearing in an article in The Age about her success. She went on to study at the University of Melbourne, completing a double degree in law and commerce.

After practising as a lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills for four years, Betty moved into investment banking, working as an associate at Lazard, one of the world’s pre-eminent financial advisory and asset-management firms.

Betty says the first-class education she received at St Catherine’s provided her with an excellent foundation for her career in law and finance.

About St Catherine’s School

  • A non-denominational Christian school for students from ELC to year 12.
  • Centrally located in the leafy surrounds of Toorak.

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