Anna works with Learning First’s leadership and training projects. A consultant with INSEAD, one of the world’s leading business schools, she trains middle and senior managers in Asia, Europe and Australia on leadership development. She also has expertise in communication, and in explaining the complex dynamics that shape the culture of a team or organisation. She holds a PhD in social psychology from the University of Melbourne.


Jacqueline Magee

Jacqueline is part of a team working with an Australian state on system-wide school reform and teacher development. She works closely with leaders at multiple levels of systems, building expertise and improving implementation of key policy reforms. Before joining Learning First she managed the Centre for New Public Education at the Foundation for Young Australians. Jacqueline also worked as a classroom teacher and program and learning outcomes manager at a government secondary school in Melbourne's outer northern suburbs. A former business analyst in economic statistics at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, she holds masters degrees in Teaching and Education Policy from the University of Melbourne.



Phoebe has produced a report for the National Center on Education and the Economy on how the world’s high-performing systems have improved their school leadership. Her work focuses on school leadership and system reform, with a specific focus on the reform histories, policies and practices of high-performing systems such as Canada, Singapore and China, as well as Australia and the United Kingdom. A former consultant with the International Trade Centre in Geneva, Phoebe has studied and/or taught at universities in Australia, Russia, Denmark and the United Kingdom. She holds a PhD in history from the University of Oxford. 

Sanaya Khisty     junior associate

Sanaya is helping to evaluate professional learning programs across schools in Victoria, and to design and implement reforms to improve initial teacher education in systems around the world. Before coming to Learning First, she managed casework for a federal MP, primarily working with people from non-English speaking backgrounds. She also worked on a consultancy project advising a political party on how to best support and engage with culturally diverse communities, with a particular focus on countering racism. Sanaya has a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne, and has worked on law reform projects to reduce the systemic issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system.



Ben has considerable experience in education reform, having advised governments on education strategy and key policy reforms in Australia, North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Before founding Learning First in 2014, Ben was the first director of the Grattan Institute’s School Education Program, and worked with numerous education systems across the world in his time at the OECD, where he conducted international research on education policy and school and teacher effectiveness.  



Kate is our Business Manager and Accountant, and part of the management team. She provides financial and business management and strategic advice to the CEO, and is responsible for annual budget development, and monitoring and records management. A chartered accountant, Kate spent six years at KPMG, working in the Audit and Shared Services Divisions. She has also worked as finance/corporate services manager for midsize not-for-profit organisations. She holds a Bachelor of Business from RMIT University and a Graduate Diploma of Chartered Accounting.



Samara is working on initial teacher education and is helping to develop a community of practice to address the challenges faced by teacher educators around the world.  She has co-authored a number of high profile reports, including the Grattan Institute’s Making time for great teaching and Turning around schools: it can be done. She has also co-authored a book on mathematics for Australian students. She holds a post-graduate degree in law and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne.

James Button Director communications and strategy

James is working with Learning First and its clients to develop a narrative of school reform, told in strong stories and plain language. After working for 20 years as a journalist and senior editor with The Age newspaper in Melbourne, in 2009 and 2010 he was a speechwriter for then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd while working in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. He worked as communications manager at the Grattan Institute, and has written two books, Speechless and Comeback. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (honours) from the University of Melbourne and a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in New York.


Danielle is leading a project for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that focuses on designing and implementing reforms to improve initial teacher education and school leadership. She has advised on education research and policy projects for state and federal governments, and for five years led an indigenous education reform organisation in Cape York, Queensland. Danielle was previously a managing consultant for IBM Global Business Services, leading complex strategy, human resources and technology projects for government departments and corporations. She holds a Masters in Instructional Leadership from the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education.  



Katie’s current work focuses on how high-performing systems have reformed early school education, and on evaluating professional learning programs across systems. A recent arrival in Australia, she previously taught in a disadvantaged rural school in Texas under the Teach For America program. She then took an education policy role at TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project), where she helped US school system leaders improve teacher evaluation and development. She holds masters degrees in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School and in Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.



Tim is part of a team working with an Australian state on system-wide school reform and teacher development. He has worked in education policy and research in Australia and the United Kingdom, including coordinating school reform activities for the Victorian state government. He has led the development of workforce policies for school leaders, teachers and early childhood professionals in Victoria and the UK. Tim has also worked as an educator, providing executive training programs in leadership, financial leadership and business management for government clients in Europe and Asia. He has an honours degree in Business Law from Bournemouth University.