MEET THE STAFF - Part Six - Social Sciences

August 07, 2018 | Girls’ College



Cara Collings

Cara has spent the past ten years gaining progressive teaching experience as well as developing her leadership and managerial skills through a variety of roles. She was born in Johannesburg and matriculated from Rand Park High School with full Academic Colours. Cara went on to read for a BA Fine Arts degree at Wits University where she hoped to pursue a career as an Art teacher. However, she quickly realised that she needed to follow her passion for Earth & Social Sciences allowing her to explore the intricate dynamics of the world around her. She therefore decided to continue with a Bachelor of Education majoring in Geography, Botany & Zoology through UNISA. Cara completed her degree Cum Laude whilst teaching full time in 2011. She started formally teaching in 2008 within a home school environment at Closing The Gap Education Centre. Whilst there, Cara quickly grew her passion for inclusive education, having to regularly implement an adaptive pedagogy focusing on learner centred education. She also led the senior grade groups and staff developing her management skills. In 2011, Cara took up the Social Sciences post at Curro Aurora. After one year she specialised as the senior Geography teacher and became the Head of Department. Cara continued to develop her management skills whilst leading the Community Service Committee, Grade 8 group and driving the ITSI schools’ platform as the Tablet ‘champion’. In 2014, Cara was appointed as the Inter Curro Head of Geography where she managed the subject nationally for the Curro group.

Cara joined St Stithians Girls’ College in 2016 as the Head of Geography providing her with an opportunity to consolidate her academic and professional qualifications within a well-structured inclusive schooling system. For the past year and a half, she has been able to utilise her creative and organisational talents as the Grade 10 Seriti Director. Cara is passionate about curriculum innovation and developing 21st century skills within her students. She strives to achieve educational balance and celebrate the use of technology with the need for academic rigour. She also aims to ensure that her lessons are thorough, creative and visually stimulating.

Cara is actively involved within Geography in the IEB community. She has been a sub examiner for the past 4 years and assists with the annual National & Regional IEB conference organisation.

Cara recently married her high school sweetheart and has two furkids whom she absolutely adores. She feels strongly about maintaining a sense of balance in her life, regularly relaxing outdoors with her family. Cara loves being creative, often inspired by various Pinterest projects and enjoys mountain biking, hiking and walking her dogs.



Claire Gyngell

Claire Gyngell attended Rand Afrikaans University on a scholarship from 1993 to 1996. She completed her BA Humanities in 1995 and then her PHED in 1996. Claire is qualified to teach FET Geography, English and Life Orientation, in addition to GETC History.  Between 1997 and 1999, Claire worked at a variety of jobs in the UK and Ireland, ranging from teaching English at a summer school to being assistant manager at a country hotel.  On returning to South Africa she started work as a Geography teacher at Sandown High School, where she coached Softball, Volleyball, Netball and Drama. She led the Student Council; was teacher in charge of first aid; organised the Matric Dance; was a Grade tutor and assisted with the implementation of Outcomes Based Education.   In 2002 she moved to Bryanston High School and began to study Psychology Honours part time. She received her Honours in 2003. Claire co-directed and produced the Major Productions and ran various drama workshops. In her last year at Bryanston High School, she ran the Life Orientation department, provided counselling services, career advice, arranged career evenings, led a variety of pastoral groups and fulfilled other pastoral functions.  In 2005, Claire moved to Rivonia Primary School to gain a deeper insight into the possible educational challenges faced by learners. In high school the focus was primarily on the emotional issues that learners were experiencing, whereas at primary school the focus seemed to be more on the developmental and neurological causes. Claire taught Social Science, Afrikaans, Technology and Arts and Culture during her four years. In addition, she continued to coach drama and netball, and set up the school’s environmental policy and recycling projects. She served on the school-based support team and was the head of discipline for Grade 7. On a personal level, during this time she was married and had two children. Having enjoyed her time at Rivonia, she nevertheless felt that her talents and preferences lay with older learners.

Claire joined the staff at St Stithians Girls’ College as a Geography teacher in 2009. Here she has fulfilled a variety of different roles, including the Grade 10 Seriti director role, Matric Dance fundraising co-ordinator, organising the voting, initiating and organising the Grade 10 High Half-way There Tea. Currently she is the Grade 11 Seriti director, Matric Dance fundraising co-ordinator and Kenwyn Tutor Director. She enjoys solving puzzles and thus organises the invigilation timetable for the staff.  Claire is very active within the wider Geography community, she has marked Matric examinations for the past 5 years. She is also a member of the team that organises the IEB Geography conference. In conjunction with Cara Collings, she organised and hosted the Gauteng Geographers evening at school earlier this month; she is a member of SAGTA (SA Geography Teachers’ Association).

Claire is passionate about Geography and teaching and is a life-long learner who enjoys implementing new strategies and technology in the classroom.



Nicky White

Nicky White grew up in the Eastern Cape and went to a Girls’ High School in Queenstown for her whole school career. Her first passion is sport and she was very involved in sport from an early age. She represented her province for Netball and Athletics at both school and senior level. Nicky studied Human Movement Science, Geography and Education at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (formerly known as University of Port Elizabeth).

Nicky’s second passion is teaching Geography. She began her teaching career in East London and moved up to Johannesburg in 2001 where she taught at various schools in Johannesburg. At St Stithians Girls’ College she teaches Grade 8 Geography.  She loves being in the classroom and interacting with the girls and encouraging them. Nicky is a firm believer in building positive relationships with the girls – both in the classroom and on the sports field.

Nicky is married to Brad White, a CSA Umpire and ex-professional cricket player. When she is not at school, she enjoys baking biscuits and she loves reading historical romantic novels.



Tshwarelo Serakwana

Tshwarelo Serakwana was born as one of five children in Lemondokop, some 57 km from Tzaneen in the Limpopo province. She finished high school in 2008 achieving the second highest results in the Mopani district for Physical Sciences, English, Sepedi, Life Sciences, Geography and Life Orientation. In 2009 she was awarded an academic bursary from the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) to study Geology and Chemistry at the University of the Witwatersrand. She has gained work experience at AEL Mining services as a Chemical Operator and at the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF) as a Project Administrator.

In 2018, Tshwarelo was accepted into the Thandulwazi internship programme at St Stithians Girls’ College specialising in Geography and Natural Sciences. She observes lessons in both subjects for Grades 8 - 11 and is mentored by Jenni-Lee Lombard and Claire Gyngell. Tshwarelo is currently reading for her PGCE through UNISA


S'busiso Tshabala

S’busiso Shabalala was born in Newcastle and raised with nine other siblings by his mother. He started school in the rural region of Fairbreeze and later moved to a township called Madadeni. In 2010, S’busiso matriculated from Dedangifunde High School. During his time there he was elected to represent his grade as part of the SRC. S’busiso has always been an inspired and diligent learner and spent his spare time working as an assistant technician at a car dealership.  In 2011 he enrolled at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein to study a BSc Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. Various life challenges meant he had to put his studying on hold for three years. During this time, he pursued his sporting passion of soccer and played for the Newcastle Sporting Academy. S’busiso also volunteered at the Department of Education assisting students with Mathematics and Physical Science. This experience triggered his passion for teaching and enabled him to realise that he could make a difference in the society through education. Growing up in a society where people did not respect the teaching profession made him realise that he was passionate about changing this perception.  In 2014 S’busiso moved to Pretoria and worked at a military hospital where he met his fiancé Mahlodi Thulare. They now stay together in Midrand with their two daughters.

S’busiso was awarded an ISASA bursary which he later turned down as he was accepted into the Thandulwazi Internship program at St Stithians. He has thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the internship experience thus far. He is currently completing his second year of the Bachelor of Education majoring in Mathematics and Geography. S’busiso is observing and carrying out his practical teaching experience in Grade 8, 9, 11 and 12 Geography mentored by Cara Collings.



Leanne Horwitz

Leanne Horwitz is a passionate History teacher who believes strongly in the transformative power of the past. She received a BA in History and Philosophy at Rhodes University before completing her Post Graduate Certificate in Education, specialising in History and English teaching. In 2003 she joined the staff at Parktown High School for Girls as a History and English teacher, before moving full-time into the History department, and being appointed Head of History in 2010. In 2008 Leanne returned to university part-time to complete her Honours in History through Wits University, where she completed a dissertation about Oral Tradition and Indigenous Knowledge Systems and their place in South African Education.

In 2011 Leanne was selected as a Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Fellow. As part of this programme she spent a semester in the USA studying education through the University of Maryland and observing the work of a Youth Centre in Washington, DC. Under the guidance of notable Peace educators and activists Tarek Maassarani, Edy Kaufman and Colman McCarthy, she developed a workshop programme drawing on the experiences of the South African TRC to teach conflict resolution skills to secondary school learners.

In 2012 Leanne was delighted to join the staff at St Stithians College. Here she has continued to explore her passions in Debating and History, as well as her commitment to transformation, social justice and anti-racism. Leanne is proud to head the outstanding History department at Saints, as well as serving as Transformation Director, a member of the Girls’ College EXCO, and the teacher in charge of Debating.

In her home life, Leanne is interested in permaculture and sustainable urban food farming. She is “fur mother” to three Afghan Hounds, three chickens, and two cats. Leanne is a voracious reader and DIY enthusiast, with a particular interest in restoring classic cars. She believes in keeping her mind and hands busy and being consistently creative and engaged with the world.



Michelle Kalify

Michelle started her teaching career as an English, History and Life Orientation teacher at Fourways High 23 years ago. After seven years she moved to the Boys’ College where she taught English and obtained her English Honours. She spent eight years at the Boys’ College where she was also the House Director and Head of Swimming.  When her daughter was born in 2009 she decided to focus on being a mom and spend more time in the classroom. She moved to Redhill School, where she taught History, her passion, and some English.

She is now back at St Stithians in the Girls’ College where she teaches Grade 8 to 11 History. She is passionate about engaging with her students about the past and wants them to become global citizens who truly empathise because they understand how the past creates the future.  She says she has the best job because she gets to tell stories all day and watch young women blossom as they understand the dynamics of living in such a richly diverse country like South Africa.  She loves spending time with her extended Lebanese family, her daughter and her furry children.


Kirsty Dennis

Kirsty Dennis completed her Post Graduate Certificate in Education (Senior and FET Phase) in 2013 while taking part in the Thandulwazi Internship Programme and gaining teaching experience at St Stithians Girls’ College. She became a permanent member of staff in 2014.  Before making the move to Education, Kirsty completed her BA in Law and English Literature and then spent two years working in Advertising and Media Production as a Production Manager.

Kirsty currently teaches in both the History and English Departments at the Girls’ College, combining her love of words, ideas, people and politics in these two subjects. She believes that History education is vital, as the ability to analyse the events of the past helps us to be engaged, active citizens – able to exert our influence on the world and change the course of the future.  Kirsty takes an interest in using technology in education, particularly in finding ways to make this a constructive and enhancing addition to the learning process. She also enjoys teaching Advanced Programme English to the Grade 11 and 12 students.  In the classroom, Kirsty is passionate about forming meaningful relationships with students, and creating a safe and interactive learning environment where students feel that their contribution is recognised and valued.

She and her husband have been married for five years and have a daughter who is one years old.



James Buchanan

Besides being employed full time as Head of Rowing for the Girls’ College, James is currently studying towards a teaching degree majoring in History. He has achieved excellent results so far. His story is featured under the Sports section.