Meet our Teachers
“The rapport between teachers and their pupils is extremely positive, enabling the teaching to be purposeful, effective and enjoyable.”
“Teaching is excellent.”
Independent Schools' Inspectorate, February 2015
Mrs Emma Wilkinson - Head of Lower School and Teacher of French
Mrs Wilkinson joined Cobham Hall in 2007 as a teacher of languages, teaching across the language-curriculum from Year 7 up to Sixth Form, where she very much values the opportunity to enthuse students about the importance, possibilities and opportunities provided by the study of languages. She is also Head of Lower School, working to support students in Year 7 and Year 8.
Mrs Wilkinson attended University College London, where she studied for a Combined Honours degree in French and German, gaining her BA at the end of the four year course. She went on to complete a one-year teacher training qualification to teach languages at secondary level.
She has always been very interested in the study of language, culture and literature and enjoys and seeks to promote the opportunities that this presents in terms of travelling abroad to widen experience and knowledge.
In her leisure time, Mrs Wilkinson enjoys reading, with a particular emphasis on developing her interest in medieval studies, as well as other hobbies such as film, craft, swimming and being outdoors. She is also involved with the Girl Guiding movement, helping to run a local Brownie Unit.
Mr Kevin Eyers - Head of Middle School and Teacher of Computing
Mr Eyers Joined Cobham Hall in Spring 2014.
He studied electronic engineering at college but also learnt about computing as a hobby, although at the time he did not really intend to become a teacher.
After leaving college, he started as an IT apprentice at a local art college – Kent Institute of Art & Design, now UCA. Within just a few years, he progressed to managing the whole ICT infrastructure for the campus. It was then suggested to him by other teachers that he had the qualities to be a teacher. He starting teaching part-time at UCA and he loved it.
Working with students and staff in the areas of fashion, design, architecture, computer graphics and photography to name a few, he picked up a lot of new skills along the way. He also worked within the ‘digifab’ department using the latest in 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies.
After doing some consultancy work for Cobham Hall on behalf of UCA, he decided he really liked the school and thought it would be nice to teach there one day. About a year later and there he was!
He thinks Cobham has a great working environment for staff as well as a brilliant learning environment for the pupils. He says all the girls are very nice and well-behaved and were very kind to him in his early days at Cobham (they still are).
In his spare time he is learning photography, plays guitar, goes on country walks and always enjoys expanding his knowledge on anything ICT.
Mrs Melissa Thompson - Head of Sixth Form and Teacher of ESS and Biology
Mrs Thompson gained a BSc (Hons) degree from Queen Mary, University of London, in Marine and Freshwater Biology. After spending her undergraduate years knee (and occasionally thigh) deep in water, sand, and mud, Mrs Thompson entered the world of London’s financial markets. Itchy feet and the desire to re-connect with the ocean soon saw her toting a backpack around the world with her sister.
A few years and numerous adrenaline sports later – bungee jumping, sky diving, white water rafting, and scuba diving to name but a few – Mrs Thompson returned home and completed her Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Canterbury Christ Church University with a view to travelling and teaching abroad. However, Cupid struck, and Mrs Thompson found herself married with two amazing children.
Mrs Thompson loves the inquisitive minds of young people and enjoys the constant challenge of their questions as they seek to develop their understanding of the world around them and their place in it. She loves the multicultural aspect of Cobham Hall and feels that she too can learn from the girls, about their cultures and traditions: travelling without leaving the classroom.
As well as teaching Biology and Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS), Mrs Thompson is also Head of Sixth Form.
Away from Cobham Hall Mrs Thompson spends her free time with her family sharing the delights of travelling, camping, reading and the occasional adrenaline sport!
Mr Nigel Bushnell - Teacher of History
Mr Bushnell studied for his BA in History at the University of York. After a very brief spell working in the Civil Service he decided to enter teaching and returned to university to complete a PGCE. He then taught for twenty-five years in various London comprehensive schools. He also became a senior GCSE History examiner and has written several GCSE and A level History textbooks.
He now combines part-time teaching at Cobham Hall with senior examining work and leading A level and GCSE History study tours to Germany and Poland. He also does some occasional work in training History teachers at the Institute of Education, University of London.
Mr Bushnell enjoys the challenge of making his students think critically about the past. He finds the various global perspectives that many of Cobham Hall’s students bring to the classroom particularly interesting. He is often impressed by the girls’ knowledge of current affairs and how they often try relate their study of the past to contemporary events.
In his spare time he enjoys socialising with friends, visits to the cinema and travelling. He is currently becoming obsessed with American history which he uses as a convenient excuse to justify holidays to the USA. At some point in the future he would like study History at postgraduate level but perhaps that ambition may have to wait until retirement!
Miss Jessica Caro Quintana - Head of Languages Faculty, Teacher of Spanish
Spanish born and raised, Miss Caro moved to England in 2007. She graduated with a BSc in English from the University of Valencia in Spain (spending a year of her degree studying at the University of Leicester in England) and completed a PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages at University College Marjon in Plymouth. Miss Caro completed her NQT year teaching Spanish and French at another independent school in Kent before joining Cobham Hall as a Spanish teacher in 2009. A year later, Miss Caro also took on the role of Round Square Representative for the School.
Miss Caro’s interest for languages started at age four, when while visiting a zoo, she met another girl she could not understand. Upset because she did not know what the girl was saying, Miss Caro inquisitively asked her parents for an explanation. They explained that people in other countries speak other languages. She then asked her parents for lessons to understand the girl and a month later, she started English lessons with a tutor. The first question Miss Caro asked her tutor was what ‘rabbit’ meant, the only word she could remember the girl saying.
Having studied English from such a young age and having two mother-tongues herself, she chose to become a Languages teacher in order to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for different countries and cultures with young people. She was keen to show them how different languages and cultures can play an important role in people’s lives just as they have played in hers. She also believes that tolerance comes from knowing and accepting the world and a good way of beginning to do this is by learning from others and promoting internationalism, a very important part of the Round Square ethos which underpins Cobham Hall’s values.
Not being used to the British weather and always feeling cold here, on a rainy day Miss Caro likes snuggling up with a blanket on the sofa and reading a fiction novel or watching a good movie (popcorn not optional!). But she also enjoys making jewellery, which she sells for charity, cooking, walking, practicing Pilates and taking dancing lessons in all different styles.
To escape the rain, she loves travelling around the world and tries to do so at any chance she has, having visited more than 40 countries. She combines this hobby with that of photography having an array of pictures of architecture, landscapes and people from around the world.
Ms Penny Clements - Head of Music
Head of Music Ms Clements has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Trinity College of Music. She studied piano and voice and specialised in choral conducting, jazz arrangement and music education. After teaching Piano at Reading School, she went on to complete her PGCE at the University of Reading where she sang with the University Chamber choir and toured Europe as an accompanist and singer. Ms Clements has taught Music in all three International Baccalaureate Programmes (the Primary, Middle Years and Diploma Programmes), and has previously worked as a Curriculum Coordinator.
Ms Clements began to play the piano at the age of six, and was focused on going to a Conservatoire by 16. However, after years of dedicated hours of practice and performing the classics, Ms Clements’ favourite part about being a musician is what she calls “musicing” – just being spontaneous, making music and having fun. It is not unusual to hear the theme tune to Thomas the Tank Engine or Wallace and Gromit wafting from the windows of the Music Wing. It is this element of music-making she loves to share with her students; music is not about judging, perfection or fear of failure, nor is it for the few; music is for everyone, is about having fun, being in the moment and sharing in a common goal.
When she is not being noisy with a choir, a piano or her guitar, Ms Clements is a water baby and dabbles in water polo, competes in open-water swimming, and recently swam the equivalent length of the English Channel in her local swimming pool to raise £500 for Diabetes UK.
She also really, REALLY likes Haribo.
Mr Matthew Haas - Piano and Voice Tutor
Mr Haas joined Cobham Hall in Autumn 2013. He has a BA in General Music Studies from Milligan College, Tennessee USA, where he studied piano, accompaniment, voice, conducting, and music education. Once he relocated to London, he received a Master of Music in Performance and Related Studies (Goldsmiths, University of London) where he studied voice and operatic technique.
Mr Haas is originally from the USA. He began studying music at the age of 7 and realised he had a talent for it. Throughout his early years, he worked as a church pianist, played clarinet in the school band, sung in multiple choirs and even played a little country fiddle (he is from Tennessee after all!).
Once Mr Haas finished his BA degree in 2009 he relocated to the UK for his Masters degree. During this time he sang at different venues and events across London and the UK. After he completed his Masters, he went on to sing with OperaGold, Goldsmiths College’s opera company, and has started his own group called Operesque, specialising in Cabaret-style opera.
When Mr Haas isn’t hard at work at Cobham Hall or with his music, he enjoys travelling, spending time with friends, reading a good book, going to the cinema, and running marathons.
Mrs Kelly-Ann Hickmott - Teacher of Psychology
Mrs Hickmott joined Cobham Hall in 2010 as a Psychology teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Middlesex University which is recognised by the British Psychology Society. Over the years she has worked with a number of charitable organisations assisting with counselling and supporting young people.
Mrs Hickmott strongly believes that through the study of psychology, students gain an understanding of the complex mental process that dictate human behaviour. She passionately believes the academic study of psychology has enabled her to increase her effectiveness in communication and enhanced her understanding of others.
Mrs Hickmott enjoys seeing her pupils’ develop their academic skills and seeing their confidence flourish in class room discussions and debates.
Mrs Radhika Hillier - Teacher in Student Support Department
Mrs Hillier works in the Student Support Department providing one to one learning support to students and specialising in Mathematics. She also assists students with revision and study skills.
Mrs Hillier began her teaching career as a primary school class teacher following her BA degree in Education and Mathematics from Exeter University and has nearly 20 years’ teaching experience. She has always enjoyed Mathematics and is fascinated by the way in which numbers behave. In her teaching of students of all ages, Mrs Hillier’s aim is always to make the full range of mathematical experience accessible and enjoyable to students of all abilities. She has recently passed the Counselling Skills Certificate CPCAB Level 2, and is preparing for Level 3.
Mrs Hillier regularly supports students at Cobham Hall in their spiritual life by forging links with local faith groups and activities, including transporting students to church on Sundays. These activities have proved especially popular with the boarding students.
Mrs Hiller enjoys creative arts and needlework, spending time with her family, and is also an accredited lay preacher and worship leader in her local church.
Mrs Kelli Hooper - Head of Physical Education
Mrs Hooper grew up in the local area – she was educated in Medway and has a teaching degree from Greenwich University. Following her degree, she taught in both mixed and single sex schools before starting at Cobham Hall as Head of Physical Education in 2007. Mrs Hooper loves the grounds and environment so much that she chose to hold her wedding at Cobham Hall in 2008.
Mrs Hooper has a passion for netball and played for the county at age 17. While she thoroughly enjoyed this experience, due to the huge time commitment, she had to choose between her two sporting passions, netball and eventing.
Mrs Hooper has ridden since the age of 7 and still competes regularly in British Eventing competitions on her horse named “It’s a Mugs Game”, or Muggy as he is usually known. Apart from netball and riding, Mrs Hooper has many other hobbies including dancing, skiing, playing the piano (badly, she thinks!) and spending precious time with her family and friends.
Mrs Hooper now has two adorable children, Oscar and Matilda, who take up much of her time although she still tries very hard to make time for sport.
She thoroughly enjoys driving into the Cobham Hall grounds and cherishes the many happy memories she has already made at Cobham – the Borneo expedition, the ski trip to Austria and the netball and hockey tour to South Africa are just a few to mention so far!
Mr Peter Hosford - Teacher of Physics
Mr Hosford gained a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Thames Polytechnic more years ago than he cares to remember. He went to work for a company called ERA technology in the Cables and Accessories Department spending many a happy year blowing cables up and performing bizarre experiments such as submerging high voltage power cables in a swimming pool for six months to see how they survived in a hostile environment. When the time came for a job change, he went to work for BICC Supertension Cables and became a Quality Engineer responsible for the drying and mass impregnation of paper insulation EHT cables. He assures people that this job description makes plenty of sense to those who actually do the job.
Factory life did not suit him so a full career change was called for. Homerton College, Cambridge accepted him to study a PGCE in Physics and Mathematics. This led him back to his old school, St. George’s Church of England Comprehensive, where he was still involved with the technical side of their Drama Department, to join the Science Department as an NQT.
Seventeen years later, having taught Physics to A Level, Biology, Chemistry, ICT and Mathematics to GCSE, and with a small excursion into Technology for Years 7, 8 and 9, it was time for a change of scene – luckily Cobham Hall appeared on the horizon and the rest, as they say, is history!
Mrs Rebecca Keys - Teacher in Charge of Geography
Mrs Keys completed her education in Maidstone, where she grew up and discovered her love of Geography through her GCSEs and A levels. Between her AS and A2 examinations, she was able to complete a world challenge to Guyana and it was during this that she realised she wanted to take every opportunity to explore and learn more about the world around her.
She chose to go to Plymouth University to complete her BA degree in Geography because it was a fantastic vibrant city with the sea on the doorstep! She thoroughly enjoyed her time there and started the first Geography Society, which grew with huge success. She also volunteered to mentor students from disadvantaged areas to help raise their aspirations and soon knew that teaching children was the career for her.
She gained a place on a graduate teacher training programme, and was employed by Maidstone Girls Grammar. After completing her GTP, she started at Newstead Wood school and taught Geography, Philosophy and Ethics of Religion for seven years. She was the Director of Learning, and looked after Years 10 and 11, which she thoroughly enjoyed. Joining Cobham Hall in September 2015 as Teacher in Charge of Geography, she cannot wait to get all the students as enthusiastic about Geography as she is!
In the summer of 2015, she was lucky enough to complete an expedition to Borneo and work with the people there, as well as see orang-utans in the wild. As well as expeditions, her interests include music, dance, skiing, and travelling.
Mr Andrew Kirkaldy - Teacher of Chemistry
Mr Kirkaldy was born in Crawley, West Sussex and studied Chemistry at Swansea University. His love of Chemistry was inspired by who he describes as “an amazing teacher” during his school years who really opened his eyes up to what an astounding science chemistry is. After discovering his chosen career path as a research chemist wasn’t for him, he completed his PGCE at Southampton University in 1997.
Having taught in four different schools in Canterbury and Medway, Mr Kirkaldy’s favourite quote is “If you’re not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you’re determined to learn, no one can stop you”.
He’s married with three children, two girls and a boy; his favourite being whichever one is behaving! He lists his loves as all things sci-fi and horror (preferably together!), Chemistry (unashamedly geeky!), students who think Chemistry is the best science (none of that Biology witchcraft!), people with a wicked sense of humour, and Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club (unfortunately!)
Ms Julia Konec - Head of Student Support
Ms Konec’s motto both professionally and personally has always been that, “you never stop learning” and this has been reflected in her varied career path. Training as a State Registered Nurse at Guy’s Hospital in the early Eighties, moving into drug research, doing a degree in English and Drama at Goldsmith’s College and eventually a PGCE, becoming a Head of Drama and a Second in Department for English, a learning mentor, a TA, doing some therapy training and raising a family have all enhanced her life experience and it is this rich diversity she brings to her work at Cobham Hall.
Ms Konec has taught in a range of different schools both within the State and Independent sectors. As well as her first degree, she has two further specialist qualifications that are nationally recognised to teach and assess students with specific learning difficulties.
Ms Konec believes strongly that we all have learning differences, only that in those identified as having special educational needs, theirs are more apparent. It is our role as teachers to explore the most appropriate strategies to support these students in their learning. Ms Konec believes that if a student is struggling to learn a new concept, then one adapts one’s teaching to suit how they learn best.
One of her roles, she believes, is to explore this with her students. She has never met a student, who once given the most appropriate tools, does not want to learn. She has a passion for promoting the emotional wellbeing of all and in her spare time enjoys spending time with her family, walking her Spanish Waterdog Lola, reading, running, swimming, meditating and most important of all, relaxing.
Ms Andrea Lockheart - Teacher of Art
Originally from Chicago, Ms Lockheart studied Art and Design at Illinois State University. Having had a creative interest in Art from a young age she attended the Evanston Art Center and SAIC (The School of the Art Institute Chicago).
After gaining her BA degree in 1981, she worked in the commercial sector as a Graphic Artist in Chicago and later in London after relocating to the UK in 1985, working in a small design studio in Camden Town.
In the early 1990s she decided to become a teacher and gained her PGCE from Goldsmiths College in London. Ms Lockheart has taught Art and Design for the past 20 years, predominantly in grammar schools, teaching both boys and girls separately and in mixed groups.
She thoroughly enjoys helping students to further their creative potential. She believes that students’ artwork develops as they make informed realisations about their own work, by seeing and experiencing art through gallery visits, by learning and discovering new techniques and skills in the studio and by continuing to deepen the way they see the world.
Dr Pamela Marin - Teacher in Charge of Latin
Dr Marin was born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Fascinated by the ancient world during her undergraduate studies, she received an MA in History from New York University. At Wadham College, Oxford, Pamela read for an M.Phil in Ancient History and later completed her PhD at University College, Dublin. She is the author of Blood in the Forum: The Struggle for the Roman Republic (Bloomsbury, 2009) and is contemplating another book eventually, but is just too busy at the moment.
Dr Marin taught previously at both university and within the secondary sector; although she just recently came to Cobham Hall, she is continuing the lively and unique approach to Latin with projects such as Roman Come Dine with Me, building a small-scale villa with the Year 7s, teaching Senex MacDonald habuit fundum to Year 8s and the traditional Year 9 chocolate Roman road (with an attempt at marshmallow-wafer aqueducts as well!). At GCSE and IB, she offers a bit of Roman history and culture alongside the Latin language and literature, so that students leave with a greater appreciation of why the Romans were amazing and that Latin matters.
Some of her favourite activities include knitting and making crafty items (and as a Lower School Tutor, teaching her students how to knit!) but the majority of her time at home is spent chasing after her toddler, watching Shaun the Sheep, and making sure that the cat is safe (from the toddler!). She and her husband live near Cobham and are enjoying the Kent countryside after living in Ireland for many years.
Mrs Tahiry Russell - Teacher of French
Mrs Russell was born in Madagascar. When she was five, her family moved to France where she completed her education.
She remembers enjoying her language lessons very much at school (she learned German and English) and she was really thrilled to go to Boston Latin Academy on a school exchange programme at the age of 14. She decided to continue studying English at the University of Paris La Sorbonne and achieved a BA in English and American Literature and Culture, as well as Linguistics.
Following this she received a scholarship to go to Texas, USA, as a French exchange student. She made the most of her gap year at Baylor University, enjoying the warm weather as well as trying new subjects and making many international friends. Upon returning to France she began to study for a Masters in French. She was selected on a partnership programme between the University of Lancaster and Paris V where she was studying at the time. That same year, she qualified for a PGCE in Modern Languages and obtained a Masters in French.
Originally she anticipated a temporary stay in England until she met her husband. Both her and her husband are very open to foreign cultures and were planning to spend a year teaching in China before discovering a family was on the way. She now has three girls whom she is working hard to raise bilingually.
Coming to Cobham Hall has been a wonderful and unique experience for Mrs Russell who loves to see so many different nationalities in one place.
Besides teaching, Mrs Russell singing, swimming and Zumba. She also likes to worship in her church using banners and prophetic dancing. In her spare time, Mrs Russell likes to paint and write. Her poems have been published in ‘Faith, Hope and Triumph’, an anthology of testimonies of Women of City Praise Centre. She has recently had more poems and prose writing published in the second volume of this anthology, in which she shares personla stories of her journey of faith.
Mrs Karen Walsh - Head of Arts Faculty
Mrs Walsh has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and has been engaged in art practice, teaching art in schools and Further and Higher Education institutions, since 1987.
She has taught a wide range of Art courses in a variety of disciplines from Year 7 to degree level and has worked as an arts examiner for the Edexcel examination board for over 10 years. Mrs Walsh has taught at Cobham Hall since 1998.
Mrs Walsh enjoys sharing her expertise and extensive subject knowledge with her students and gets great satisfaction from supporting and encouraging girls at all levels of ability to exceed their expectations.
Mrs Walsh believes that students should be given the opportunity to have a sound underpinning knowledge of the terms of the visual language and that learning in art provides students with a way of perceiving themselves and the world, which is essential to their education. This visual understanding deepens their creative awareness by enhancing the imagination and intensifying ideas, feelings and sensitivities.
Miss Francesca West - Teacher of English and Film Studies
Miss West graduated from Reading University in 2007 with a BA in Film, Theatre and Television Studies. She spent her last two years focusing particularly on film making and film theory, producing several of her own projects. After completing a PGCE at Canterbury Christchurch University, Miss West went back to her old school, Rochester Grammar, to teach English, Media and Film Studies.
Miss West is a patron of the arts and enjoys anything creative or theatrical: she is currently writing a children’s novel, painting a piece for the National Portrait Awards and helping run Cookery Club (but not all at once!). She wishes she was good at music, but despite learning for three years, she has never gone beyond Grade Two of the saxophone.
Family plays a very important role in Miss West’s life and, as such, she even works at the school with her sister, the other Miss West. She has another sister who lives in Italy, where the whole family like to reside in the holidays.
Critiquing and making films is one of her greatest passions and she is thoroughly enjoying teaching the filmic tradition to students at Cobham Hall. She also feels privileged to be able to work in an environment which is so culturally diverse, yet rich in tradition.
Ms Julia West - Head of English Faculty
Miss West read a degree in Modern History at Queen’s College, Oxford which included the specialism Literature and Politics in Early Modern England. Whilst studying at Oxford she was president of the Eglesfield Players Drama society, performing as Maria in a spoof version of The Sound of Music and as a ‘Jet Girl’ in West Side Story. As well as loving creative performance, it was people that fascinated her most; how they acted, what they felt, and how they expressed themselves. This influenced her decision to transfer to English and Drama for her PGCE at Sheffield University.
As well as teaching in several schools in the United Kingdom, Miss West has also worked in an international school in Cairo, Egypt, which was situated on an island called Zamalek in the middle of the Nile. This was a formative experience and reaffirmed her belief that travel does indeed broaden the mind – not least with the excitement of living in such an exotic and historic place! Working with a student body from all over the world was a joy, and, for her, this is also one of the great attractions of working at Cobham Hall.
Although she is a big fan of Oscar Wilde, she would like to refute his sentiment: “Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.” Whether taking jewellery classes, writing poems, acquiring a property portfolio or trying every kind of dancing (tap; ballet; foxtrot; samba; lindy hop or belly); she is always seeking to learn new things as well as to teach them.
Her greatest ambition and fulfilment in teaching is to inspire students to question, to challenge assumption, to use their imaginations and to think for themselves. Although she hopes her students will always value her opinion, she considers her teaching to be truly successful when her students no longer need her.
Miss Alison Williams - Head of Humanities Faculty
As the daughter of a military family, Miss Williams was educated at a girls’ boarding school from the age of 11 and enjoyed the fun and friendship of being a boarder. With her parents living in Southern Germany, she spent the school holidays improving her skiing and travelling around Europe in the family camper van.
At school she enjoyed studying History, English and Languages and was especially involved in Drama through school plays and local drama festivals.
On leaving school she studied History at Brasenose College, Oxford, specialising in Early Modern England and Renaissance Italy. She went on to teacher training at Nottingham University. After teaching in a large comprehensive she spent some time working for an Anglican church running activities for children and families before returning to teaching when she joined the staff at Cobham Hall in September 2010.
Cobham Hall reminds her very much of the things she loved about her own school: the friendliness, sense of fun and the range of activities going on. She thinks History has important ideas to teach girls as they learn to think critically and explain their own opinions clearly. The highlights of this year in her classroom have included a Medieval Feast, a re-enactment of the Spanish Armada, a debate on the Treaty of Versailles, some very moving presentations about the Holocaust and a fiercely contested revision competition.
Miss Williams loves reading and her favourite novel is Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (although she has never read it in French!). She also enjoys cooking, trips to the theatre and visiting old buildings.