BACKSTORY: Celeste Gilardi
We question Celeste Gilardi, Rector of St Stithians College
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
It’s important to hear the voices of all the stakeholders. That takes longer but makes the "deal" more sustainable.
What was your first job?
Together with a friend, I worked in a pharmacy over the weekends.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
On my R35 an hour, I was able to save money to travel overseas. Travel fills my soul. That little job, and the importance of saving even small amounts, opened the world for me. It taught me not to be insular.
What’s the worst investment mistake you’ve made?
As an educator, my investment has always been in people. It took me too long to realise that the first and best investment I needed to make was in my own development.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
I wish I had been a member of the audience at the graduation speech that was given by the great American writer William Faulkner at his daughter’s college. He said: "Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion, against injustice and lying and greed." I needed to know the power of my individual actions and that what I did, no matter how small, mattered.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
Perhaps there is an unexpected side to me in my love of motorbikes. When I’m on the back of my husband’s scrambler I feel a great sense of freedom. It’s a long way from responsibilities and meetings and quite elemental.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career? And if so, what would that career be?
Never! Teaching is a lifelong passion. It is a dynamic, constantly changing space.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
I would try to find a way to provide quality education for all. In the St Stithians family of eight schools, I am particularly proud of our Thandulwazi Maths & Science Academy. It has empowered tens of thousands of learners, students and teachers since it was founded. Its internship programme puts skilled teachers into classrooms and this is what is most needed, to keep adding to the pool of brilliant SA teachers. With good teachers, we can change the world. That is my passion and my purpose.
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