A mother, teacher, science lover and advocate of animal welfare, fitness, environmental issues and nutrition, meet Suzanna Lopez and her passion for exciting, challenging and adaptable curriculums…
Miss Suzanna Lopez has been appointed the new Head of the Preparatory School at Manor House, the selective independent day school for girls in Bookham, Surrey. Miss Lopez is currently Assistant Head (Academic) at the independent preparatory school, Westbury House, in New Malden and will join the Senior Leadership Team of Manor House School, led by Headteacher, Ms Tracey Fantham, from September 2018.
When asked what she was looking forward to doing when first joining Manor House, Miss Lopez commented: “I am eager to meet and get to know all the pupils and parents at Manor House School as quickly as possible and begin to develop positive relationships with them. I want to deliver an exciting, challenging and adaptable curriculum, so that all girls are given the very best opportunities in which to thrive and be successful, both personally and academically.”
Miss Lopez’s main responsibilities at Westbury House involve helping to monitor and develop the quality of teaching and learning across the school, and analysing assessment data to ensure excellent pupil progress. As part of the senior leadership team there, she has also been involved in whole school development and improvement. In addition, Miss Lopez is Head of Science and runs the School Council.
Miss Lopez set up the School Council two years ago at Westbury House to help preparatory pupils understand the importance of democracy and to experience the power of decision-making. One of the initiatives that the council representatives decided upon was the creation of a new school shop. This developed into an entrepreneurial endeavour in which the School Council had to borrow money, research which products to sell, calculate profits and decide upon loan repayments. It has been a valuable learning experience for all involved and continues to be a success at the independent school.
Miss Lopez has a BSc in Environmental Studies from the Open University and a PGCE in Primary Education from the University of Greenwich. Inspirationally, she managed to complete both courses on a part-time basis whilst also raising a family, as well as completing an MSc module in Contemporary Issues in Science Education for good measure.
Initially growing up in Epsom, Miss Lopez attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School until the age of ten, when her parents decided to move to the coast in West Sussex. She subsequently attended Chatsmore Catholic High School, near Worthing, until the age of sixteen. However, being of Spanish descent, she also spent much of her childhood in Galicia, North West Spain, where her father is from.
She began her teaching career in the maintained sector and worked in several inner London state schools. Before moving to the independent sector in 2011, her last role was that of Upper Key Stage 2 Phase Leader and Science Lead within the Borough of Lewisham. Miss Lopez then moved on to become a form tutor and Maths and English teacher at Oakfield Preparatory School in Dulwich.
Miss Lopez visited Manor House School a number of years ago and says, “I was blown away, not only by the beautiful surroundings, but by the warm and welcoming family atmosphere that the school fosters. I was impressed by how happy the girls looked and how polite and friendly everyone was. I have had my eye on the school ever since and when I saw the advertisement for Head of Prep, I knew I had to apply.”
When asked what she finds inspirational, Miss Lopez says: “I find inspiration in all areas of life, from people that I meet or read about, from places that I have visited or would like to visit, and from music that I listen to. I use this inspiration to set myself both professional and personal goals, and in turn hope that other people will be inspired by my actions.”
An inspirational female role model she certainly is. As well as bringing up a young family and managing a fast-track career, Miss Lopez is passionate about fitness and loves to compete in military bootcamps. Some of the races she has entered include the Denbies 10 miler, the Box Hill Tough 10, the London Winter Run 10k and the Extreme Challenge 10k OCR. She also enjoys attending local park runs. Despite setbacks from broken bones and various other injuries, Miss Lopez’s goal is to one day be able to take part in ultramarathons and multi-stage distance races. She says: “I love the sense of achievement when I accomplish new goals. I believe there is a physical activity for everyone to enjoy and participate in. Sport develops self-confidence, a positive body image and the mental strength to cope with the stresses of everyday life.”
Miss Lopez is also interested in animal rights and welfare, environmental issues and nutrition. She has been a vegan since the age of twelve. Before becoming a teacher, she spent some time working as a veterinary nurse. Her dream is to buy an old farm in North West Spain and set up an animal sanctuary. Hence, Miss Lopez attends Spanish lessons when she can and is determined to eventually master the language!
As a child, her interest in animals and the sciences led her to discover and admire the work of two amazing women who transformed the scientific method behind primatology: Diane Fossey and Jane Goodall.
As a result of Miss Lopez’s enthusiasm for all things environmental, it is no surprise that she is a huge advocate for outdoor learning as well and is looking forward to enjoying the seventeen acre grounds and outdoor classroom facilities at Manor House. “I believe outdoor learning is a powerful tool in developing essential life skills such as independence, collaboration and respect for the world and the environment in which we live.”
As if that wasn’t all enough, Miss Lopez has begun writing a murder mystery novel. “I’d like to think that one day I will finish it and maybe get it published.”
But what of her expectations for her students? Miss Lopez would like her pupils to be independent in their thoughts and actions and to be able to stand up for what they believe in; to be resilient, giving them the strength and ability to overcome challenges and to keep striving to achieve their dreams; and she also believes it is important for them to have compassion for those less fortunate than themselves.
She considers that the best foundations of a good education are a positive and safe learning environment, teaching staff who are creative and innovative, strong home-school partnerships where parents are fully supportive and involved in their child’s education and the teaching of core values and life skills, including those linked with new technologies. She has high expectations of her pupils, not least in helping them understand how they can improve their learning by understanding their strengths.
When challenged on why an independent education at an early age is more beneficial than a maintained one, Miss Lopez replied: “Young children, in their formative years of development, mature and progress at different rates and in their own time. At this age, what children need most is time and attention in a stimulating, nurturing and safe environment.”
“An independent education not only provides smaller class sizes but offers greater individualised teaching and learning. This is underpinned by strong discipline, high expectations and a healthy sense of competition. A broader and more balanced curriculum affords wider opportunities for personal growth, as well as academic success. In addition, a much wider variety of extra-curricular activities and clubs are provided, often run by highly skilled professionals. Independent schools instil a unique sense of self-belief in their pupils, helping them to develop confidence and resilience, and prepare them for life as a successful adult.”
But what of the future and how we should prepare our children? Miss Lopez believes in the role of teachers to equip pupils with the skill sets they will need to take on the challenges and opportunities in a future that our generation cannot yet foresee.
By delivering a curriculum that gives girls the space to explore, create and innovate, she is confident that pupils can develop such abilities within a positive and supportive environment. Enterprise initiatives, leadership opportunities, community work and volunteering opportunities will also play a part in developing these skills at Manor House.
We look forward to exhilarating times ahead!
Manor House School is a selective independent day school for girls aged 4-16 with co-educational nursery in Bookham, Surrey. www.manorhouseschool.org