St Catherine’s ELC is recognised as exceeding the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) national quality standard, making it one of the top Melbourne ELCs. With qualified and passionate educators, the ELC has a team of dedicated staff creating a secure and caring environment for your children.

Our educational program is centred on children’s innate curiosity, encompassing the Reggio Emilia approach and incorporating the Australian Early Years learning Framework. Our educators embrace all opportunities to strengthen their young learners’ knowledge, confidence and resilience.

Overseeing our Early Learning Centre is Head of ELC, Ms Sarah Bethune (BEd(EC) Dip Teach (EC)Melb). 

Sarah manages the day-to-day running of St Catherine’s ELC and supports the children, families and staff in Campbell House, as well as teaching within each of our four learning rooms.

Passionate about making a difference in the lives of young children, Sarah graduated University with a Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood) and a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood). Following this she was able to gain extensive experience in a research and demonstration Kindergarten attached to The University of Melbourne. This unique setting provided Sarah with the opportunity to extend herself as a teacher in a high calibre environment, as well as participate in research and develop a greater understanding of pedagogy.

With exceptional organisational and managerial skills, a specialised knowledge of child development and an innate ability to provide pastoral care to children and families, Sarah is a true asset to St Catherine’s Early Learning Centre.

Having worked at St Catherine’s for over a decade, Sarah is dedicated to providing our young learners with access to a plethora of learning experiences, materials, resources and experts.

It is so satisfying to observe the learning, growth and development in every child over the course of their educational journey at St Catherine’s ELC. We have a strong capacity to support the learning and development of individual children and provide rich, hands-on learning opportunities that enable the children to develop a sense of wonder and a love for learning,” Sarah explains.

Our ELC Educators

Mrs Helen Nicolaou
BECS DipEd Melb

Helen became an educator to make a positive influence on the development of young children.

“Children need educators to guide, support and provide learning opportunities to reach their full potential,” Helen says. St Catherine’s provides high quality early learning education that celebrate children’s individual strengths, interests and needs.”

“The emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct impact on their overall development and shape who they will become. That is why understanding the need to invest in young children is so important, in order to provide them with the best opportunities for their future wellbeing.”

Helen holds a Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies and Diploma of Education Primary and has been working as an Early Learning educator for over a decade.

Ms Julie Malvestuto
BA Latrobe GDipEd(EC) RMIT

A qualified Kindergarten teacher Julie enjoys the enthusiasm and eagerness three, four and five year-olds have for their learning environment. It is this innate joy and love of learning that inspires her daily work.

“I think that my role as an Early Childhood Educator is to foster that love of learning so it continues throughout their academic life.”

With a degree in Sociology, History and Early Childhood Education, Julie enthuses the essence of Early Learning, “Working in Early Childhood Education brings a great deal of satisfaction and achievement to my professional life.”



Ms Zoe Swindells
BEd(Primary), GradDip (Early Childhood Teaching)

Having worked in early childhood education for over 17 years, Zoe has continued to study, completing a Bachelor of Primary Teaching/Bachelor of Arts then completing a Post Graduate Diploma of Education studies (International Baccalaureate PYP) and finally a Post Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Teaching.

Witnessing the growth of children is the biggest reward of teaching and a typical day for Zoe requires adaptability to ensure the educational program can be changed according to the children’s interests and any lines of inquiry that may be occurring throughout the room. This may involve changing the different learning experiences and materials provided for the children, finding ways to extend upon their learning. Throughout the day there is lots of reflection either with the children, with colleagues or self-reflection. The days are very busy but always interesting and exciting as the children’s ideas emerge.

“The outdoor learning environment in the ELC is an amazing natural space for the children to explore, investigate and discover. It has been really interesting to observe the children exploring this environment as they navigate their way over natural terrane, negotiating uneven surfaces, jumping and climbing, as well as examining everything within the natural environment.” explains Zoe

Mrs Penny Campbell
DipTeach(EC) IECD

With a history of teaching in her family, ELC educator, Penny Campbell truly cherishes the opportunity to educate young learners.

“I have always enjoyed working with young children. I feel it is a great privilege to share the children’s discoveries of knowledge and skills as I endeavour to enrich their understandings of the world around them,” Penny says.


Penny believes the importance of Early Learning education is the opportunity to nurture lifelong learners. “For many children this is their first experience outside of their family environment. Educators have the opportunity and, responsibility, to ensure a sense of wonder and love of learning is embedded into the children whilst encouraging them to reach their full potential.”


Ms Kristina Schrader
BCI QUT MTeach(EC) Melb

“In the St Catherine’s School ELC, a ‘typical day’ does not quite exist. Each day is as unique as the children who I have the privilege of collaborating with,” explains Kristina Schrader.

“Every new day sees fresh inquiries and wonderings emerge. I never know exactly where the day may lead, which is an incredibly exciting aspect of engaging and learning with children!”

Kristina represents the Early Learning Centre as part of the Student Wellbeing Committee and has found the whole school approach to wellbeing both enlightening and inspiring.

“To engage in companionable learning and to celebrate growth alongside inspirational professionals, children and their families, all of whom contribute with such heart and generosity to our collective experience, is an immeasurable joy,” she says.

Kristina’s other life passion is performing arts, which she interlaces throughout her classroom with a focus on music and movement as a tool for learning. “I trained and worked in the areas of acting, singing and dancing during my time living in New York City. I love how movement promotes vitality and unique expression, which is why it is something I encourage in our ELC every day,” Kristina says.

Mrs Briony Friend
CertlllCS, Dip ECEC

With a background working for the Walt Disney Company, developing artists’ music and audio storybooks for children, Briony provides our young learners with a nurturing, caring and patient approach to Early Learning education.

“After completing my Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care and becoming a co-educator at St Catherine’s I have had so many rewarding experiences, particularly observing the growth of each child, entering as a 3 year old and leaving well equipped to commence school,” Briony says.

“Early years education is so important because it provides the opportunity to extend a child’s knowledge of themselves, their world and those around them. They become more resilient, independent and curious as their learning journey unfolds in the ELC. Having the opportunity to be a part of this growth is very rewarding.”

Briony believes the strength of St Catherine’s Early Learning program is borne from the expertise, dedication, heart and pride that all our ELC educators invest into our young learners and the program.

“Our ELC has many qualified staff with years of experience in Early Years education. Staff work together in a team environment, expertly led by our educator in-the-field. A strong passion for children to learn and have fun, building relationships with not only the children, but families, our school and outer communities.”

Ms Melissa Meirun Chen
BA (Majors in Journalism and Communication) Monash University
Master of Teaching, Early Childhood Education & Teaching) Deakin University

Melissa discovered her love for teaching while pursuing other professional projects.

“After completing a BA in Journalism and Communication I wanted to write and illustrate a series of children’s picture books. To bridge the gap in my learning, I pursued my teaching degree and found my true calling.”

Since commencing at St Catherine’s, Melissa has observed that one of the School’s greatest strengths is “the genuine care of its students.”

This is particularly important to Melissa given the challenges of teaching in a pandemic, and the increased need to be vigilant of younger learners, “who possess big emotions but find it challenging to express themselves.”

Melissa certainly is proficient at expressing herself. “I speak five languages – English, Mandarin, Cantonese, French and Greek. I also self-taught myself the guitar and later, the ukulele because the guitar was not portable enough.”

Ms Erin Jolly
BA (Majors in Dance & Women’s Studies) – Deakin University
Grad. Dip. Ed. (Early Childhood) – Monash University
Diploma of Teaching Dance in Tap, Jazz & Theatrical Dance (The Australian Academy of Dance T.A.A.D)

Erin believes her love of teaching is written in her DNA.

“My mother and great-grandmother were both primary school teachers. As a young girl I was often drawn to children with special needs, and enjoyed helping others, or looking after the young children of friends and family members,” Erin shares.

In addition to a Graduate Diploma in Education, Erin has a BA in Dance and Diplomas of Teaching Dance.

“I relish opportunities to incorporate dance, music, and movement, as well as storytelling, books, and puppets into the daily program. Children respond so positively to a singing voice or a prop rather than a spoken voice. Often the students who may be otherwise feeling shy or reserved come alive when I connect with them in meaningful ways through music, movement, stories, and rhyme.”

“It is truly rewarding to observe each child’s confidence grow and I feel privileged to educate the youngest members of our School community.”