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Nikki Kirkup, Principal

With over 20 years of experience in education, Nikki, originally from the UK, came to Australia from St George’s International School in Switzerland where she held the role of Head of the English and Drama faculty for 7 years. In this role, she implemented the International Baccalaureate Diploma and redesigned the Middle Years English program.

Prior to joining The Knox School at the start of 2020, Nikki held the role Director of Senior Years at Melbourne Girls Grammar (MGGS) and Acting Deputy Principal and was instrumental in leading various projects and teams in the Middle and Senior School.

Student agency and “leadership beyond the badge” are both areas that Nikki has championed, working closely with students to develop a range of philanthropic and enterprise initiatives.

With her passion for collaborative leadership, student-centred approaches, community engagement and innovation in education, Nikki is excited about her role at The Knox School, especially a return to co-education and a major role in furthering the four pillars of our strategy.

Outside of school, Nikki enjoys spending time at the beach with husband, Bren, and her pet spoodle, Dood!

Travis Parker, Deputy Principal (Interim)

Travis is an Educational Leader at The Knox School. He is an authority in Learning and Teaching with expertise in Assessment, Digital Project Implementation, Mentorship and Timetabling.

He is a passionate advocate for designing and teaching transdisciplinary electives that encourage student agency and choice and believes the skills and dispositions acquired by students through these programs are of vital importance as they leave school and enter an increasingly uncertain world.

Michelle Mitchell, Deputy Principal (Interim)

Michelle graduated from the University of Melbourne with Honours and after accepting teaching position at John Paul College, rose to a Head of Department role within three years. Following this she joined Caulfield Grammar School for 14 years where she was a Head of House and a Head of Department.  From 2009 through to 2016 Michelle committed to several short term contracts with the VCAA working in the VCE Accounting and Business Management Units.

In 2012, Michelle joined The Knox School Community as Head of Commerce, and following this, was Head of Humanities.

Michelle has a keen interest in innovative education.  As the Manager of Strategic Implementation, she has developed an entrepreneurial pathway and has promoted personalised learning and skills-based assessment in the school.   Michelle oversees The Knox School Staff Professional Development program.  Recognised for her work she has written papers and presented at conferences across Australia since 2017.

When at home Michelle enjoys the company of her husband and two children, a fur-child, six budgies and three goldfish.

Suzanne van Strien, Head of Senior School

A dedicated, lifelong educator, Suzanne has taught in leading independent schools in 4 states and territories, including 10 years at Knox Grammar School in Sydney and 14 years at Radford College in Canberra.

As an Educational leader, she combines a comprehensive knowledge of matters of governance with logistical and analytical strengths, student tracking and development, and curriculum design. She commits to the principles of these domains and maintains that an integrated, holistic approach is central to student engagement and success.

Suzanne is also an accredited PGA Community Instructor for golf, loves creating furniture in woodwork, an avid geocacher, and has been a dog-training instructor for over 15 years, not that it is evident if you meet her border collie and kelpie cross whippet!

Toni-Ann Bright, Head of Middle School

Toni-Ann started her teaching career in South Africa, cementing her belief that all students have the right to access quality education that is focused on providing the best opportunities available and meeting the needs of students, both academic and pastoral. Further teaching and leadership roles in the UK and Australia has provided a wealth of operational, administrative, curriculum and strategic experience across a range of learning environments.

As the Head of the Middle School, Toni-Ann is committed to enhancing students’ academic, cultural and social outcomes, to fostering continuous improvements in teaching delivery and maintaining best practice. The adolescent years are challenging and Toni-Ann is determined to provide students the opportunity to explore, discover and achieve their full potential within a safe and nurturing environment. It is her hope that her enthusiasm and love of learning inspires others to engage positively with their education.

Outside of School, Toni-Ann enjoys spending quality time with friends, motorsport and travelling extensively with her husband, Brian.

Catherine Samuel, Head of Junior School

As Head of the Junior School, Catherine believes in providing every student with opportunities to recognise and reach their full potential, experience personal success and find their passions. Her passion for teaching stems from her love of life-long learning and the opportunity to instil that in others.

Catherine has taught and led in several different educational settings from the country to the city, within the government and independent sector, and in single-gender and co-educational schools. These opportunities have provided her with many rich experiences that have shaped her beliefs and understanding today, and she still regularly reflects and draw on them today.

Catherine is excited to lead The Knox Junior School, focusing on developing the whole-child, designing engaging and challenging learning experiences for students and instilling strong values and attitudes towards learning. When Catherine is not focused on her role at The Knox School, one of her greatest enjoyments is heading home with her dog, Charlie, to her parent’s property in country NSW.

Simon Cowell, Deputy Head of Junior School

Simon is a TKS alumni from 1995. Upon graduating from TKS, he completed a degree in Community Development at Deakin University, leading him to work in the international community development sector. He was a board member of an educational charity in Cambodia, and this position directed him to education. Simon completed a degree in both primary and secondary education. He has taught in various roles across both primary and secondary in the UK and  Australia, with his last position being at Melbourne Grammar School.

Simon has a strong focus on the inquiry process through a concept-driven curriculum and the Design Thinking Model. In the Junior School, Simon oversees curriculum development with a strong emphasis on student agency and voice. He collaborates and plans with all Junior School staff.

In his own time, he enjoys travelling, especially to Cambodia, where he still maintains strong connections to educational settings in Siem Reap.

Ian Foster, Director of Business Operations

Ian commenced as the Director of Business Operations at The Knox School in October 2012, following a 8 year tenure as the Business Manager at Westbourne Grammar School. Ian’s career has been quite diverse whereby some of his key roles were working in a Chartered Accounting Practice, the Child Care Industry, the privatisation of the Victorian Rail and Tram network and particularly in the Financial Service sector, before venturing into the education sector.

Whilst working in the Financial Services sector he had some short working stints in Auckland, London and New York.

Ian is married to Michelle and has two daughters: Chloe who has provided two grandsons, Sam and Noah, and younger daughter, Paris, who is currently in her fourth year at University studying to be a secondary school teacher. The family is also comprised of a pet cat called Chardonnay.

Ian is very passionate about sports having played soccer in the NSL (now the A League) with Brisbane Lions, plays regular golf, follows Melbourne Storm in Rugby league and Richmond in the AFL.

He has been fortunate to travel extensively across the world and would love to visit Scandinavia one day.

Heads of House

Mr Travis Parker – Head of Paterson House

Mrs Joanne Vanderpol – Head of Flinders House

Mr Chris Brand – Head of Chisholm House

Ms Lindi Chiu – Head of Lawrence House

Heads of Faculty

Ms Karen Lucas – Head of Science

Mr Ben Ritchie – Head of The Humanities

Mr Brenden Morris – Head of Mathematics

Miss Emma Kenny – Head of English

Mrs Amanda McCleery – Head of Languages

Dr Jane Lawrence – Head of Differentiated Learning

Dr Jingjing Wang – Director of International Program

Ms Julia Stoppa – Director of Music and Performing Arts

Mrs Birgit Verhagen – Head of Technology, Art and Design

Mr Alex Wilson – Head of Sport


Mrs Tania Castles – Registrar

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