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.
How did you come to work in Curriculum Support?
I have worked in many different girls' schools both locally and internationally for the past 15 years. I began teaching English Literature and Psychology in the UK, however found myself taking on a number of leadership, pastoral and academic roles, before relocating to Australia.
You have a Masters in Special Education and Gifted Education. What is your special interest?
My final Masters’ thesis was on girls' self-efficacy in gifted education. I am very passionate about the learning process and work with students of all abilities to harness their strengths and unlock their potential.
What favourite things do you have in your teacher toolkit?
The girls at Fintona know I am repeatedly advocating for the use of flashcards, mind maps, audio books and other learning tools to enhance student knowledge and deepen their understanding.
What special activities do you get involved in in your role?
I have been part of many different academic extension and enrichment activities such as Tournament of Minds, Future Problem Solving and Da Vinci Decathlon, and 2018 was my first year being involved in the World Scholar's Cup (WSC).
What do you love about your job?
I enjoy my role because we are a small school and we want to expose the girls to a wider community of like-minded students and a wider world of opportunity, too. I enjoy helping them go beyond the curriculum and to apply what they learn in the classroom more broadly. I feel very fortunate that my role allows me to work with support students’ learning journeys.
What is your biggest passion?
The love of learning. I love watching girls activate their brain, extend their knowledge and enhance their understanding. It’s a powerful process and I feel very privileged to see that in action. It’s very rewarding.
What I do you like to do on weekends and term breaks?
I love reading and travelling (either locally or overseas). I also spend a lot of time ferrying my two gorgeous children (Ruby and Harry) between sporting activities, playdates and birthday parties!
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.
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.
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 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 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
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).
Lucy Foster is currently the Year 3 teacher in the Junior School who came across to us this year from Lloyd Street Primary (also an IB PYP accredited primary school). She is passionate about teaching the PYP curriculum and believes that there are many benefits. Lucy, originally from Gippsland, began her career as a podiatrist. In our interview with Lucy we find out what made her leave a successful career behind as a podiatrist to pursue Primary School teaching.
What made you change your profession from podiatry to teaching?
I loved my job as a podiatrist and got to take part in some amazing experiences. These included travelling to Fiji to educate the doctors and nurses about how to care for the high risk patients to help decrease the rate of amputation and deaths from wounds. I also worked in collaboration with other health professionals in a paediatrics clinic to assess, diagnose and treat health issues in children. I found that my favourite part of being a podiatrist was being an educator and working with children, so I decided to head back to university to study Primary Education. Teaching is my passion – it’s not my job, it’s my career.
You are new to Fintona. What was the first thing that struck you about being a teacher here?
The first thing that stood out was the welcoming nature of the school community, including staff, students and the families. Also, the small class sizes at Fintona make it much easier to cater for individual learning needs.
You have come from another International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program PYP accredited primary school. What, in your opinion, is the main benefit for students in teaching the PYP?
While there are many benefits to the PYP curriculum, I think the main benefits are students gaining a conceptual knowledge that they can apply across all learning areas and the holistic approach to the development of the whole person. Also the action and promotion of continued, life-long learning is an important outcome.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Eat! I enjoy cooking and hosting dinner parties, but I especially love eating out. I relish in trying new restaurants and cafes, and frequenting my favourites. At the moment, my spare time is also being taking up by the process of moving into our new home, which is exciting and stressful at the same time.
Alice Kemp is Fintona’s very first and only Latin Teacher who began here in 2014. Latin was a compulsory subject in Year 7 when Alice went to school and she instantly fell in love with the language of Ancient Rome. While at university, Alice wrote an Honours thesis in Italian on Dante’s Inferno and looks forward to returning to Italy to practise her Italian. She is currently completing a Masters in Latin education.
You chose to become a Latin teacher. What led you to this decision?
I loved Latin right from my first exposure to the language which was in Year 7 and teaching Latin seemed to be a way of getting to know it even better! I like the historical aspect of the language and enjoy the grammatical challenge of unlocking meaning in any given sentence.
What do you think the students get out of learning Latin?
They gain a deeper knowledge of the English language and Latin gives them an excellent grounding in second language acquisition, in particular Romantic languages.
Your Latin classes are not just about learning Latin but about gaining an appreciation of life during the Roman Empire. What cultural activities have you planned for your students?
The Latin students celebrate two festivals – toga day (also known as Liberalia), to mark the coming-of-age of a Roman boy when he assumed the white toga of manhood, and the Vestalia, a festival sacred to the Vestal Virgins who tended the perpetual sacred flame housed in the Roman forum. In both ceremonies, the girls don Roman attire and enjoy Roman-style food. These festivals are very much enjoyed by the students.
You are running ‘Fintona Funfit’ classes for senior school students after school each Thursday. Is this another interest?
Yes. Keeping fit and active is another interest of mine and I find that exercise is an excellent way to de-stress and take stock of life!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love swimming (most days I swim at my local pool) and also reading, generally novels. Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors and I have read all his novels.
What do you find most satisfying about leading the Early Learning Centre?
Fintona Early Learning Centre is a very special place. Not just for the children who frequent the space everyday but also for the adults; teachers, parents and all who visit. It is a joy for me to lead the teaching team at Fintona ELC. I am lucky to be part of such a passionate and dedicated team of individuals who are committed to ensuring that each and every child not only learns and grows, but also enjoys each and every day they spend with us.
What has been a highlight of your time so far in the ELC?
I think that every school year brings many different things to feel both proud of and excited about. From our amazing annual collaborative community projects to the everyday achievements of individual children. A particular highlight for me was in 2013 when Fintona ELC was assessed under the Australian Children’s Education and Care National Quality Standard. Fintona ELC achieved the highest rating of ‘Exceeding the National Quality Standard’ in recognition of the quality of our ELC and the dedication of our educators. The achievement of this rating made me feel very proud and we look forward to maintaining that rating into the future. The re-development of our outdoor play-spaces over the last few years have also been an exciting achievement for mw. Part of this redevelopment has seen the creation of a new space, a ‘Sensory Garden’, which provides the children with an additional quiet, investigative space, to be explored with by all of the senses.
The ELC is a very beautiful and modern space. What are some of the ways students benefit from it?
The ELC space is both flexible and beautiful. The learning areas are designed to allow for maximum light and a sense of spaciousness and visibility. We endeavour to be responsive to our children and the ELC environment allows teachers to arrange and re-arrange spaces easily as the program develops and changes. We provide the children with many different types of materials for them to engage with, meaning the children are regularly able to make choices about the direction of their learning. Additionally, the outdoor learning environment is a natural space, filled with loose materials and opportunities for risk-taking and extended physical and social play.
What do you like to do when you’re not teaching young girls and boys or running the ELC?
When I am not teaching in the ELC I enjoy travelling, spending time with my family and friends, and extending my cooking skills by trying something new in the kitchen. I am also very involved in many early childhood network groups, and advocating for the rights of young children, including with the Australian Reggio Emilia Information Exchange, of which I am the current Vice-Chairperson.