Katrina Brennan
Head - Senior School
Even though Katrina was destined to be a teacher from a very young age after playing school with her dolls and setting up a library with her books, she commenced her career as a lawyer.  However, the law did not satiate her desire to be involved with people in a more holistic sense so she began her training in education. Whilst on a teaching round after only a few weeks of study, Katrina knew then that she was undoubtedly in the right place and has never regretted the decision. In her short time as Head of Senior School, she has gained the respect of her colleagues and students and loves to ‘pass on’ her love of books and reading in the classroom.​
As a teacher, where have  you worked prior to coming  to Fintona?

During my study, I taught at a range of schools including a small girls’ private school, a co-educational state school in the Eastern suburbs and a more diverse and challenging state school in the Western suburbs. I spent my first six years at a private, co-educational school in the outer western suburbs of Melbourne as a senior English teacher.  I was an inaugural Head of House there with  200 students in my House from Years 7-12 who I looked after  in a pastoral, discipline and academic sense. I went from there to Shelford Girls’ Grammar as the Head of the Middle School (Year 7-9) and English teacher (Year 7-12).  The school is a similar size to Fintona. The role at Shelford was similar to my current position and I learned a lot about building relationships and working with people.

My husband and I then took a sea change, living on the Victorian West Coast where I taught at a country, Catholic co-educational school for a few years. This was a very rewarding experience, as the culture was so different to my previous schools, given that most of the students lived on nearby dairy farms. We then welcomed a son, Callum, into our family and I most recently have been at home with him, prior to returning to work part time initially and full time in 2013.

As the new Head of Senior School what have you found so far to be the most rewarding aspect of your job and what is the most challenging?

The most rewarding aspect is dealing with the amazing students at this school. Fintona students are so friendly and welcoming. They are also highly motivated, kind and inclusive. They enjoy the small size of the school and appreciate getting to know their teachers. It is wonderful to be a part of a school where the students are genuinely thrilled to be here, the families are encouraging and the teachers are passionate about their subjects, interested in every student as a learner, dedicated to their teaching and supportive of each other as colleagues.

The most challenging aspect is getting to know everybody and handling the diverse and wonderful range of things that are part of my role. It is also what I love about the job as I can spend time in a day with any number of students, their families and staff and I can also be organising a function, thinking about curriculum or finding out about a program that could potentially be put into place here. It is very busy but very exciting.

How would you best characterise a Fintona girl in the Senior School?

The girls in the Senior School are energetic and focused. I find them to be open minded and curious about the world, relishing opportunities to travel or learn about other experiences.  They are also characterised by their kindness and support of each other. The girls are motivated to do well but not at the expense of others. They wish to help each other to do their best and are very proud of each other’s achievements.

Can you tell us what your interests are outside of school? 

I have a great love of books, theatre, art and design and film.  I love my family and spending time with my husband and son is always wonderful. I particularly love reading with my son and enjoying days at the beach immersed in nature.  I love travelling and experiencing different cultures and food. I enjoy socialising with friends, cooking, walking and listening to good music, especially when I get a chance to see something live. 

Nick Capriolo
English

Nick Capriolo began at Fintona in 2009. He teaches English in the Middle and Senior Schools and Legal Studies in the Senior School but as well as being a well-respected and talented teacher, Nick actually began his career as an industrial and graphic designer and then later became a lawyer.  He tells us more about his interesting journey from the ‘artworld’ and academia to teaching secondary school girls at Fintona.

You have had several, quite diverse careers.  When did you know that a teaching career was your true vocation?

After completing an Honours Degree in Literature and Philosophy, I taught at the University of Melbourne in the Philosophy department for about eight years while completing post-grad and working in the law. I found tertiary teaching stimulating but not as rewarding as I subsequently found secondary teaching – it is less fraught with egos and it’s more challenging to teach students to walk rather than run. Also, I soon discovered that besides being the most enervating job, it is one of those careers that you never question the worthiness of what you are doing - it has an immeasurable soul-enriching effect.

As a teacher, where have you worked prior to coming to Fintona?

My first teaching position was at Thomas Carr College, a large, co-educational Catholic school in the Western suburbs. I then applied for a position at Fintona The contrast between the schools could not have been greater and it was not long before the impeccable behaviour and conscientiousness of the students, as well as the warm collegiality of the staff, convinced me my choice of career was not a mistake. I was fortunate to start teaching Legal Studies for Years 11 and 12, as well as Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, in English. The range of year levels was demanding but engaging.

What do you think students find most appealing about your classes?

I do find that if a teacher is candid and treats students as possessing the ability to judge the fundamentals of life and learning as capably as anyone else, they respond to the intellectual independence with which you credit them; students of all ages have a keen radar for teachers’ pretensions or incompetence. Also I find humour a great leveller and communal device.  I believe that when a teacher and students share laughter, it is one of the most positively nourishing moments.

You love to read. What are your favourite books?

Philosophy is my strongest academic interest and I tend to read philosophical journals and texts. As far as literature goes, I generally read poetry rather than prose, however I keep revisiting the classics; Joseph Conrad and Nabokov are probably my favourites. I also read anything Ian McEwan writes.

Can you tell us what your interests are outside of school?  

My external interests include architecture and building; I have been building my own house for the last twenty years. I indulge in photography and painting when I can, but would love the confidence and time to be less of a dilettante and focus on writing and painting. Over the last few years, due to the recent phenomenal technology, I have experienced a belated passion for music of all genres. I wholeheartedly agree with Kurt Vonnegut, another of my favourite authors, for an atheist, music is the closest thing to the divine.

John Thomson
Drama
John Thomson’s talent in the dramatic arts is extensive. With a repertoire including writing and directing for film and television, comedy and children’s theatre, he has worked with some of Australia’s comedy heavyweights including Richard Stubbs, Wendy Harmer and Peter Rowsthorn. John has been Fintona’s Co-ordinator of Drama since 2006 and has just completed directing the school production of ‘After Juliet’ which thrilled audiences. He is currently writing a film which he plans to turn into an animation movie. 
You have a long and rich history working in theatre, comedy, film and television. How did it all start?

I was born in Oxford, England and my family migrated to Australia when I was 11.  While I was at University in Perth, studying to be a doctor, I discovered drama. I left Medicine behind and began work at Perth’s first children’s theatre company. Later, I secured a position at the Victorian College of the Arts Drama School and after graduating, I became a director of live comedy working with some of the biggest names in comedy at the time. I also completed a Post Graduate in Film and Television at Swinburne and my short film won the Best Short Film at the Melbourne Film Festival in 1983. Still in the 80s, I moved to directing and writing for TV including directing ‘Let the Blood Run Free’ and the popular comedy series ‘Full Frontal’.  

What made you become a teacher after so many years of writing and directing for Comedy, Film and Television?

As a writer, I found that I was spending more and more of my time in front of a computer and missed the collaboration and contact with others. I wanted to impart my knowledge about drama to young students so I decided to go back to study and become a drama teacher.  

How do you think Drama benefits students?

Drama is a compulsory subject at Fintona to the end of Year 8 and then becomes an elective.  I believe that Drama benefits students in four major ways:

Develops confidence and expressive skills.

Teaches students to work in groups.

Stimulates students’ imaginations.

A time to have fun and let off steam. 

What has been your favourite movie?

I saw Avatar with my son which we really enjoyed and were able to talk at length about what it all meant afterwards.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I love to go to the cinema and spend time with my wife, son Angus and our dog Sparky. I also enjoy playing indoor cricket, cooking and dining out.  We have a place at Phillip Island and I enjoy spending time with my family there.

Trish Leigh
Head - Middle School
Trish Leigh is our Head of Middle School.  She came to Fintona in 2009 and has had over 20 years experience as a teacher.  She has also conducted her own consultancy business providing professional development for teachers specialising particularly in Mathematics and ICT and, in addition, has authored a number of teaching resources in Mathematics and Literacy. Her love of teaching, enthusiasm and constant encouragement has seen her build an excellent rapport with her students who enjoy immersing themselves in a range of exciting opportunities as part of the Middle School curriculum.
 

When did you come to Fintona and in what capacity?

I came to Fintona in 2009, as a Year 6 classroom teacher. It was very exciting for me to join a community of welcoming, dedicated professionals who shared my values and beliefs of the importance of a well-rounded education for girls. I was able to share my expertise whilst learning further from my colleagues who inspire me with their passion for education.

As the new Head of Middle School what have you found so far as the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Definitely the most rewarding aspect of being Head of Middle School is having the opportunity of meeting and working with such a wide range of interesting young ladies. It is a privilege to be part of their education and to listen to their excited chatter at lunchtimes. I particularly enjoy working with the different age groups and developing ways of providing opportunities for them to investigate their different skills and talents. The other rewarding aspect of the position is the opportunity to build a warm, positive environment in which Year 5 to 8 students are able to interact with girls in different year levels to pursue a variety of interests.

What exciting plans do  you have instore for  Middle School House?

We are so very lucky to have a dedicated area for Middle School girls in Moss House. Not only is it a delightful working space for our girls to pursue their endeavours, but it also provides a warm atmosphere where the feeling of community can be fostered. This year has seen the introduction of a number of new lunchtime activities in Moss House, such as Cooking Club and there are plans for developing other clubs related to the girls’ interests such as debating and public speaking clubs, gardening club and games clubs. There are also plans to utilise one of the upstairs spaces as an SRC and Tutor Representatives room where the students can meet to organise activities and to discuss suggestions they have for Middle School.

How would you best characterise a Fintona girl in the Middle School?

A Middle School Fintona girl is warm, caring and accepting of her peers. She is excited about the many opportunities she has for learning and developing her skills and talents and she is comfortable in knowing that she is supported in all her endeavours. Our girls are confident in approaching their teachers to discuss whatever is of importance to them and they know they will be treated with respect and interest. A love of learning is evident in Fintona Middle School girls and this is reflected in their willingness to try new things, even if at first it may appear difficult.

Can you tell us what your interests are outside of school? 

In my leisure time, I enjoy walking, particularly on crisp mornings. I also love reading and savour every opportunity I have to curl up with a good book. My family plays a very important part in my out-of-school life and I cherish the many opportunities I have to spend time with my children and grandchildren. I also love to travel, both within Australia and overseas.

Chris Williams
Commerce

Chris Williams has been a teacher at Fintona since 2008. He teaches Year 12 Economics and Accounting, Year 11 Economics, most Commerce electives,Year 8 Geography and Year 7 History.  He is a Year 10 Tutor and the Ower House Teacher. To keep things balanced, he is also Fintona’s Junior Tennis and Soccer Coach. His skill in all things numerical is well known around the traps and he puts this into practice by working with the Year 4s in mathematical problem solving. While many students speak highly of Mr Williams’ classes, his biggest fan is his daughter Scarlett who provides endless hours of entertainment. Even the lack of sleep has no effect when she comes running up to him and jumps into his arms at the end of the day. And she loves coming to Tutor group on the odd occasions to meet the ‘big girls’!

You weren’t always a teacher. What is your background and why did you make a change to education?

I come from a Commerce background and most recently prior to teaching, I was an investment analyst for a Funds Manager, valuing Australian companies on the stock market. I have a Masters in Applied Finance as well as other commerce post graduate qualifications. I loved what I did but decided that I wanted to make a difference in the world and hopefully change people’s lives. Investing people’s money was personally satisfying but I wanted to have a more direct influence and had a passion to work with children.

What is the most satisfying aspect of being a teacher?

There is nothing more satisfying then seeing the growth in an individual from Year 4 right up to seeing them graduate from Year 12. To see a student ‘get it’ who has struggled with a topic in class, after spending one on one time with them, is really satisfying. 

What do you think the students find appealing about your classes?

I hope they like that the classes are linked to the real world, and that I am able to bring my real life experience to my classes. They are able to use many of the skills they learn in class in their own lives, and most importantly they understand the world around them, how it impacts on them and how they impact it. My classes tend to be quite interactive and the students really enjoy the hands on learning that enables them to apply their skills and knowledge.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I play football for Hawthorn Amateurs in the winter and cricket for Bulleen in the summer. I also love reading, and am working my way through the collection of Charles Dickens (halfway thus far) with my favourite book being David Copperfield.

Elizabeth Exintaris
Music Co-ordinator
Elizabeth Exintaris joined Fintona at the beginning of this year as Music Co-ordinator. She brings a wealth of experience to her role, having previously held similar senior roles at a number of schools in Melbourne. As well as being a consummate pianist, she is a composer, conductor and performer, has been a lecturer, and a compere, and loves to get involved in charity events. Now that Elizabeth is at Fintona, she is looking forward to developing each student’s love for music even further. We discover more about what she has planned for our talented music students. 
 
When did you develop your love for music and what instruments do you play?

I have always had a love of music from an early age. I was always involved with concerts, musicals and choirs when I was at school and my love for it has never subsided. When I was eight years old, I started playing the piano and soon after I discovered how much I loved singing. I can play various other instruments including violin, flute, guitar and cello, to name a few.

Tell us about your professional background before coming to Fintona.

I studied at the University of Melbourne where I received my Bachelor of Music degree and Diploma in Education. I have a Master’s degree in Arts (Music) and have been the Head of Music at several schools in Melbourne. I have conducted many orchestras and choirs, composed a number of works which have been performed and lectured and performed overseas. Apart from my involvement with music, I do a lot of charity work for the community and have been a compere at many events over the years. 

As the new Music Co-ordinator, what is your vision for music at Fintona?

My vision is to create new and exciting programs which will enable our very talented students to gain a deeper appreciation of playing a musical instrument. I have recently introduced regular soirées to allow students to appreciate what it’s like to be a music performer. I would like to see our students participate in various competitions and hopefully, go on tour around the country and overseas to compete. Overall, my aim is for students to develop a long term love and appreciation of music that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching music to young students?

Music is a universal language and I have great enjoyment in watching young people develop their musical skills and watching them grow in their ability over time. I enjoy introducing them to new and exciting aspects of music. 

Apart from playing and listening to music, what else do you like to do in your spare time? 

I go to the gym, I love cooking, gardening, renovating, skiing, going to the beach, dancing, drinking lots of coffee and going for long walks with my little dog Zetta! 

Angela Raven
Mathematics

Since arriving at Fintona almost two years ago teaching Year 7 – 11 Mathematics, Angela inspires her students to enjoy Maths by helping them develop faith in their own ability. However there is more to Angela than algebra, geometry and equations.  Previously, she taught a combination of Mathematics and Physical Education at secondary school level and held the position of Head of Sport for eight years. She is a passionate exponent of girls only education having taught in an all girls’ school environment for over 24 years. She is currently a Year 7 Tutor in the Middle School.

As a new teacher to Fintona, what was your first impression of the School?

At first it is the gardens that draw you in – they are really beautiful and make an excellent first impression. I like the size of the School – it has a real sense of community and enables staff to truly know each other as well as each student. The small class sizes mean that I can give greater time to each girl and more easily cater for individual needs. While Fintona is a non-denominational School I see it as being a multi-denominational and multi-cultural School. I enjoy this aspect as I believe that it is a better reflection of today’s society. It is a melting pot of cultures and with diversity there comes a better understanding and tolerance of others.

What is the best thing about being a teacher?

The students. They teach me something new every day and always make me laugh. I love their ‘can do’ attitude and enthusiasm for learning. Students, especially those in the Middle School, tend not to be sceptical or cynical and are ready to change ‘the world’. They have many ‘aahhaa’ moments when learning something new.

How do you make Mathematics fun for the girls?

I try to inspire students by working closely with them and affirming to them that they can solve mathematical problems. By building faith in themselves, the students then develop a positive attitude towards Mathematics and want to learn. Sometimes Mathematics is fun while other times it takes sheer hard work on the students’ behalf. It is important to balance the two. It is often the dynamics present within a class that makes it fun. Teaching requires a good deal of flexibility – I have never met two students who respond the same way to new information.

Since starting at Fintona I have been a Tutor at Year 7. Last year my Tutor Group and I learnt about Fintona together. It is really important to me to make an effort to get to know the whole student as a lot of ‘teaching’ is done outside of the classroom. I am really proud of any student who tries to be the best person that they can be. I try to help and encourage each student to: identify their talents, be accepting of individual differences and improve their resilience.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am very close to my family; I am one of six girls and I have eleven nieces and nephews. There is always someone to support or something to celebrate. I also enjoy travelling overseas and am currently studying Italian. Santa bought me a bicycle for Christmas and I try to cycle every weekend. Reading is another hobby that I enjoy. 

Brit Biviano
Art Co-ordinator
Brit Biviano joined Fintona in Term 4 in 2012 as Acting Art Co-ordinator and was permanently appointed Art Co-ordinator in 2014.  With a Bachelor Arts (Visual) from Deakin University and a Bachelor of Teaching from the University of Melbourne, Brit has been teaching since 1999. He will be completing his Masters in Fine Arts at Monash University later this year. Brit is also an accomplished artist in his own right having recently sold out his paintings at a local exhibition.  
When did you develop your love for art and what did you do prior to Fintona?

While I was in secondary school I enjoyed Art classes and was encouraged by my teachers to continue on with Art. After Art school, I was drawn to teaching as a profession. I have worked at a number of independent schools in Melbourne since leaving university. 

As well as co-ordinating art full-time at Fintona you are also a practising artist. Tell us a bit about that. 

I really enjoy painting when I get the chance and throughout the years I have had a number of group and solo exhibitions - both locally and overseas. My last exhibition was well received and was personally successful. I like to work in oils but also like to explore other painting materials. I draw inspiration from a variety of sources including contemporary popular culture, music, film, books – pretty much anywhere. I also take a lot from art history as well as contemporary Australian art and artists.

As the new Art Co-ordinator what is your vision for art at Fintona?

First and foremost I would like the students to enjoy Art, and more importantly, to become aware of the visual art around them and how important it is in our world. Art is at the heart of what we do as individuals and collectively, as a society.  It teaches us about who we are and what we value, both on a personal level and in a cultural sense.  Furthermore, Art provides students with opportunities to develop problem solving skills in a creative way and it also strengthens their visual literacy. These things, in my opinion, are vital, particularly because of the rate of change we are experiencing in regard to technology, the environment, politics and vocational expectations.

In 2015, you and your students will be working in the new Art Precinct.  What are you looking forward to the most about working in this exciting new space?  

Further developing what we already do. The new art spaces will allow us to improve and strengthen our Art curriculum, as well as offer more vocational based applications of Art, particularly design and textiles (fashion). There is great enthusiasm among students and Staff and this will inspire some interesting ideas and produce even more outstanding work. 

Apart from painting in your spare time, what else do you like to do outside of school?

I really enjoy being with my family especially my  son. I also have a keen interest in photography as well as going to the footy (I barrack for Geelong), listening to music, and reading. I also like to travel and rate visiting Budapest and Berlin as two of my favourite travel experiences.

Brittany Creek
Junior Teacher

Brittany has been at Fintona since 2003 teaching in the Junior School. She is a very experienced teacher, having taught mainly Prep to Year 2 classes throughout her 16 year career.  This year, for the first time at Fintona, she is teaching Prep and loving it.

What have you found to be your most rewarding experience so far this year teaching Prep?

I have been hoping for 11 years to teach Prep, at Fintona and this year I finally got my chance. My passion is teaching Prep, so I would have to say the most rewarding experience is being able to do something that I love.  There is never a dull moment when teaching five year olds and they are always coming up with new ways to make me laugh. Watching the girls blossom this year and seeing how far they have come in such a short space of time
is very rewarding.

After 11 years at Fintona what do you still find exciting to teach? 

Teaching children to love learning and to always ask questions is still something that I find exciting. I know that I will never be able to teach them everything they need to know, but if I can teach them how to love learning then they will forever be able to find the answers to the questions that they ask.

What do you consider to be your special talents and passion in life apart from teaching, of course?  

When I was at school, I learnt five instruments and was the music captain in Year 12. It has been a long time since
I have been able to use this talent except if you include singing to my children to
get them to sleep!

If I think about my passion in life, I would have to say that it is being a mum to my two beautiful girls, Phoebe 7 and Eliza 5.  

What do you like to do in your spare time?

When I’m not thinking about school,  I love spending time with my family.  We are lucky enough to have parents with houses at the beach and on the farm, so my spare time is spent escaping Melbourne and going to Sorrento and Heathcote. They are totally different experiences. One we go to, to relax and catch up on the family happenings and the other is to completely return to nature and with it, all the jobs related to working on the farm. Feeding the alpacas and tending to the olive grove. All in all, a well rounded life I think!  

Cathy Devlyn
Maths Co-ordinator

Cathy finds it hard to believe that 2015 represents her 27th year of teaching; her third at Fintona where she is the Mathematics Co-ordinator. She is passionate about teaching maths and says that she fell in love with maths from an early age – it’s just one of those things that she gets. After leaving school, Cathy enrolled in Medicine but in her first year, soon realised that maths teaching was her true vocation. For Cathy, the good thing about teaching maths is that it is always changing and evolving - new courses, new technologies, new ways of thinking. She finds herself constantly learning and updating her knowledge to stay ahead of the game and this helps her to keep fresh.

In your career so far, you have been a Maths Co-ordinator for 16 years. Tell us about your previous work experience.

I was a long serving member of my past two schools, spending eight years at Tintern and then 16 years at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School. As a graduate teacher at Tintern, I was given remarkable opportunities; I oversaw the implementation of the Melbourne University Program for High Achieving Students in Mathematics (MUPHAS) and got to mentor some very talented young maths students from Tintern and surrounding schools. Being Mathematics Co-ordinator at PEGS for 13 years, I had the responsibility of managing a team of maths teachers while ensuring the educational needs of a large number of students were being met. These roles taught me the importance of nurturing and fostering a strong team spirit. With everyone enthusiastically working towards a common goal, you just can’t help but feel swept up with the adrenaline of it all, and inspired to do better and better. 

What do you find most satisfying about being a maths teacher?

The most satisfying part of being a maths teacher for me is when a student begins to ‘get it’; when they begin to see how things are connected and why something is so. Sometimes it can take a while. Sometimes you have
to be patient and just wait till the time is right, as they say nothing worth doing is easy, but when it happens
it’s magical. 

There is a significant number of girls in the Senior School at Fintona who enjoy maths and do very well at VCE level. Why do you think that is the case?

I think it is due in a large part to the importance the School places on the learning of mathematics. Fintona has solid programs in place to support and develop the learning needs of each student. A robust curriculum coupled with substantial and meaningful enrichment and enhancement activities ensure our girls develop broad based mathematical ideas. They are not narrow thinkers. They are encouraged to take a risk, to be creative and critical problem solvers and to persevere. 

You, along with Christa Ackermann, Science Co-ordinator, organised the inaugural STEM Week at Fintona in August. What do you think the students gained from the variety of activities and speakers?

Organising STEM week was great fun. There was a real energy within the science and maths faculty and working with Christa on this was pure delight; she has a true passion for all things scientific. The students (and staff) gained so much. 

We were able to hear and see first-hand how useful maths is in so many areas and careers. It opened the girls’ eyes to fields they had not realised were out there and ways in which their passion for maths could be utilised. 

What do you like to do when you’re not imparting your deep knowledge of Sierpinski triangles, algorithms and vector mathematics?

I love getting down to the beach. We have a family holiday home at Anglesea and my favourite times are spent in the surf with my boys (husband and two sons). For ‘my therapy for the soul’, l enjoy going to the ballet. I’ve been a subscription member of the Australian Ballet for the past eight years. It’s a great chance to catch up with friends and to appreciate a different world of movement, colour and form (without numbers).   

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