School’s Out with Jenny De Nardis

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.

Article ‘School’s Out with Jenny De Nardis’, The Weekly Review, July 27 2016, page 22:

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!

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