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BoT/Council


Scott Champion

Chairman

Hi. My name is Scott Champion and my wife Jenni and I have two children at Wā Ora. While I’m a parent with no previous experience of  Montessori prior to our Wā Ora involvement, I’ve become an enthusiastic supporter through seeing how the approach has benefitted our children on many levels. Most of my work is in the primary sector and around land and natural resource issues. I have a background in agricultural science and have worked in tertiary education, the commercial wool sector and for the national sheep and beef industry organisation.

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Nick Mayo

Treasurer

Hi, I’m Nick.  Meghan & I have Sophie and Bailey in the primary school.  I have 20 years experience in financial services, starting my career with Deloitte in NZ and have spent the past 17 years working in Sydney, Miami and London.  Recently returning to NZ and having decided to settle in Wellington, I’ve ventured into the public sector, working for the Department of Corrections as Deputy CFO and heading the Business Partnering function.  Outside of work I’m a sports nut, equally happy either playing, watching or debating sport.  I’m an advocate of the Montessori philosophy, enthused about the high school initiative, and via my role on the Board I’m looking to provide the necessary financial acumen to help steer the investment in this new venture.

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Priya Gain

Member

Kia ora, my name is Priya.  My husband Joe and I have three children at Wa Ora across the primary and high school.  My background is in psychology, education and Māori studies.  I am a registered primary school teacher and a specialist in drama based inquiry learning and music education.  I am currently working as a teaching fellow at Victoria University in the School of Education and as the music and movement specialist at Eastern Hutt School.  I am very involved in the music education community running workshops and courses for teachers throughout New Zealand.  At Wa Ora I have enjoyed running a year 7 and 8 debating group since 2018 and through this also supporting some children to be involved in the NZ Intermediate Writers Award.

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Lillian Pak

Member
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Marina Pouesi

Member

Kia Ora, Talofa Lava. Ko Marina ahau. I’m mum to Mia and Patira and am also kui to Sophie and Connor, all in primary. My professional background is in the therapies services and I’m also a writer. I love Montessori for its Tuakana/teina approach and Whānau kaupapa. I’m lucky to be part of kapahaka and to have an opportunity to be on the board. I love chocolate and I’m open to bribery attempts.

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Mark Skelly

Member

Hi, I’m Mark and Dad to Alyssa in the high school and Sienna in primary. In my spare time I like anything that flies; I recently started training to fly gliders. I also fly drones and radio control planes and have my Pilot’s License. I also enjoy Star Wars (as you’ll see when you come to the next school disco …). I’m an owner of Red Hot, which is a business coaching company helping busy business owners to grow their income and spare time.

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Logan McShane

Student Representative

Hi my name is Logan. I am a year 13 student in Tāwari and have been at Wā Ora since I was 18 months old. I am the student representative on the Board of Trustees. By joining the Board I hope to be the voice of the students and bring their views to decisions made at the school. I also think it’s a great opportunity to see how the school is run in the background. I like that Wā Ora teaches you to be independent and gives you the responsibility to manage your own learning. Some of my hobbies are basketball, video games and making memes.

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Ava Szabo

Principal

I have been at Wā Ora since 2011, initially as Deputy Principal High School and stepped up to the role of principal in 2017. I hold a Bachelor of Science and a Postgraduate Diploma of Teaching and have attended the Adolescent Orientation in Cleveland, Ohio. What I love about Wā Ora is the passion students bring to their learning – they are honest and open minded. I live in the Hutt Valley with my husband and four sons.

  • ava@waora.school.nz

Anna McLean

Deputy Principal - Preschool

I joined Wā Ora in 2018 having spent the previous 10 years teaching in a 6-12 classroom at Tawa School. I have both AMI 3-6 and 6-12 Montessori training and a Bachelor of Education Degree (Teaching) Primary from Massey University.  Prior to teaching, I worked in the corporate world, which gave me a range of skills and experiences that I have been able to draw on in my roles since.  I like sharing my passion for Montessori and I never tire of talking to people about it.  I live in Tawa with my husband and two older children and in my spare time I like reading and I am getting used to being a gardener.

  • anna@waora.school.nz

Leadership Team


Ava Szabo

Principal

I have been at Wā Ora since 2011, initially as Deputy Principal High School and stepped up to the role of principal in 2017. I hold a Bachelor of Science and a Postgraduate Diploma of Teaching and have attended the Adolescent Orientation in Cleveland, Ohio. What I love about Wā Ora is the passion students bring to their learning – they are honest and open minded. I live in the Hutt Valley with my husband and four sons.

  • ava@waora.school.nz

Anna McLean

Deputy Principal - Preschool

I joined Wā Ora in 2018 having spent the previous 10 years teaching in a 6-12 classroom at Tawa School. I have both AMI 3-6 and 6-12 Montessori training and a Bachelor of Education Degree (Teaching) Primary from Massey University.  Prior to teaching, I worked in the corporate world, which gave me a range of skills and experiences that I have been able to draw on in my roles since.  I like sharing my passion for Montessori and I never tire of talking to people about it.  I live in Tawa with my husband and two older children and in my spare time I like reading and I am getting used to being a gardener.

  • anna@waora.school.nz

Tania Gaffney

Deputy Principal - Primary

I have worked at Wā Ora since the beginning of 2010 having spent the previous 8 years working in a 6-9 primary Montessori class in Wellington and teaching Montessori preschool for 4 years prior to that. I gained my Primary Teaching Degree at the University of Otago and did my AMS Montessori diploma in New York. I really enjoy the community feel of Wā Ora and the way we can see the students develop from preschoolers to young adults as they move through the school. During my down time I like to read, and I have begun to develop a bit of an interest in gardening over the last couple of years.

  • tania@waora.schoo.nz

Thomas McGrath

Deputy Principal - High School

One of the most fascinating things about being a teacher is that you’re constantly putting yourself into situations where new learning will occur. This learning is always a reciprocal process and not a day goes by that I do not marvel at the things that I have learnt in the process. My learning began in Rotorua, before moving to Wellington in 2005 to pursue academic study. After several years acting, playing music, and teaching in various capacities, I began here at Wā Ora in 2014. In doing so, I found a school that matched many of the methods that I had been trying to implement at other schools. In 2017 I began as Deputy Principal of the High School and it is with pride that I am part of such an active, involved, and vibrant learning community. In my down time I like to make great plans with my wife, play the drums and the accordion, sit quietly, read short books, listen to music, drink tea, walk our dogs, and tinker in the garden of our house in Newtown.

  • thomas@waora.school.nz

Hayley Luan

Executive Officer

Kia ora. My name is Hayley and I joined Wā Ora in 2018 as the Executive Officer. Being part of the administration and support team, I provide budgetary and financial information and reports to all stakeholders and work as the board secretary as well. I have a background in finance and accounting and have worked in the banking and a charitable sector before joining Wā Ora.  In my spare time I enjoy watching movies, studying Japanese, reading books and travelling with my family and friends.

  • hayley@waora.school.nz

High School


Hilary Asquith

Kawakawa Head Teacher – High School

My name is Hilary and I was appointed as the lead teacher of Kawakawa in early 2020. I have been a secondary teacher since 2005 and have developed an interest in literacy and curriculum development. I have taught in a range of schools in New Zealand as well as abroad.  I now live in the Hutt Valley with my husband, our two boys and our labrador Nellie. Areas of interest are; walking in the regional park close to our home, our building projects, house plants, good books, films, hanging with friends and trying my best to be a good parent.

  • hilary@waora.school.nz

Allyson Ashfield

Kawakawa Teacher - High School

I started teaching at Wā Ora in  2016 and enjoy being part of this vibrant community and seeing where our learning takes us. I teach Occupations, Humanities, Maths and Micro economy. I have just completed my training as a Montessori High School teacher in Brisbane, at Montessori International College, and am raring to go! I also have a Graduate Diploma in Primary teaching. Through travelling I have grown to love all areas of learning and hope to share this as I guide the ākonga. I enjoy being active and will have a go at anything to see if I like it. When I lived in Japan I enjoyed watching Taiko (Japanese drumming) performances and now I am part of a group here in Wellington.

  • allyson@waora.school.nz

Jason Johnson

Kawakawa Teacher - High School

I’m Jason and I’m a teacher in Kawakawa, working with the amazing kids we have here in all subjects – Humanities, Occupations, English, Mathematics, Advisory time – you name it, I probably do it! I’ve been teaching for about 12 years in secondary schools, originally starting out as an English teacher, then transitioning into teaching Science and Philosophy. Now I get to do all that at once and really work my creativity muscles:-) I’m also a geek and a musician, so in my personal time I’m usually doing something in that world – practicing, performing or recording and tinkering with computers.

  • jason@waora.school.nz

Rose Langridge

Humanities and English Teacher; Careers Adviser - High School

I have taught at Wā Ora since 2012 and have a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and a graduate Diploma of Teaching. In 2014 I had the great privilege of attending the Montessori adolescent training in Ohio, USA. I enjoy the community feel throughout Wā Ora and I believe that studying the history of humanity helps to develop strong citizenship – I enjoy traveling through time with the high school students! Outside of school you will find me dabbling in cooking various cuisines or at a gig most likely of the indie rock persuasion.

  • rose@waora.school.nz

David Starshaw

Mathematics Teacher - High School

I teach maths and occupations (science) in Kawakawa and maths in Tāwari. I’ve been with Wā Ora since 2014. Surprisingly, my degree is in music. I travelled to Ohio in 2014 to train as a Montessori high school teacher. I like that we have guided independent learning and that our occupations units have real value to the school community (composting, bike maintenance, chickens, etc.). I like gaming, ultimate frisbee, and making forts.

  • david@waora.school.nz

Zena Kavas

Biology Teacher - High School

Hello. I started teaching at Wā Ora in 2018  and work in the high school teaching Biology to our college students and Occupations to our adolescent programme. Previously I worked at Taita College for 14 years. I love sharing the wonders of the natural world with ākonga and seeing them relate the theory we are learning to real life situations.  My personal interests include practicing and teaching yoga, travelling and exploring new places and ideas, gardening, reading and tramping/trekking in NZ.

  • zena@waora.school.nz

Stuart Mason

Chemistry Teacher - High School

I have taught chemistry, mathematics, occupations and microeconomy in the high school since the start of 2013. Prior to this I taught in other schools in New Zealand and the UK, including a year at Athena Montessori College. Before teaching, I studied chemistry at Victoria University of Wellington. I love working with the 12-18 age group because it is a fascinating part of life’s journey and it is a joy to see just how much can be achieved by the extraordinary adolescent mind when it is given the opportunities of independent thought and collaborative work offered in a Montessori environment.

  • stuart@waora.school.nz

Michael Draper

Physics Teacher - High School

Hi, I’m Michael D (to distinguish from the other Michael on staff) and I’ve been involved with Wā Ora since 2001 – as a parent, a volunteer and now a teacher in the high school. Trained as an engineer, I had an interesting career in IT and management consulting, before turning my energy to teaching.  I love the way the Montessori system engages ākonga in projects that further the differences they want to make in the world and combine learning across multiple fields.  I also love the way it helps our ākonga grow and develop as contributing members of their communities – I see that in my own children and feel very privileged to be a full time contributor to that for our ākonga. I’m also a geek, love learning across almost any field and am a recent and enthusiastic electric car owner!

  • michaeld@waora.school.nz

Warren Keenan

Enterprise Teacher - High School

I joined Wā Ora in 2017 teaching Enterprise in the college and Humanities and Micro-economy in the adolescent programme.  I hold a Diploma in Physical Education from Otago University, a Diploma of Teaching (with Distinction) from Christchurch Training College and a number of industry qualifications from within the financial services industry. My interests include an extensive service to hockey and surf lifesaving, where I have been involved in many leadership roles. My passion is developing opportunities for young people within the Young Enterprise Scheme.

  • warren@waora.school.nz

Dave Murray

Hard Tech Teacher - High School

My name is Dave Murray and I work in the Wā Ora technology room mainly with timber. I teach NCEA level one and two and also work with the Kawakawa adolescents on different projects. I did my teacher training many years ago and have worked across all levels in schools and colleges since then. I enjoy working with the students at Wā Ora as they have a positive attitude to learning new skills. I also run a home maintenance business and in my spare time I am a keen fisherman, restore old 70’s motorbikes and am kept busy with our rural property.

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Natalie Moreno

Music Teacher - High School

I have been teaching music at Wā Ora since 2011. I have a Bachelor of Music and a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. I really enjoy seeing students get excited about what they are learning, trying out new ideas and being inspired by discovering new music. In my spare time I enjoy making jewelry, doing puzzles, and spending time with animals.

  • natalie@waora.school.nz

Sarah Jane Lambie

Micro Economy Teacher and Sports Coordinator - High School

I have been working at Wā Ora in various part-time teaching and events management roles since 2011. I have a Bachelors of Arts Degree, a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and a Masters Degree of Library and Information Science. I enjoy the special sense of commitment, community and belonging at Wā Ora, both as a teacher and as a parent of the school. My children are in Kawakawa class and my interests include being their mother, gardening, reading and netball. For relaxation I love bush walking, listening to music and practising yoga.

  • sarahjane@waora.school.nz

Primary School


Carolyn Bohm

Rātā Teacher – Primary

My name is Carolyn and have taught at Wā Ora since 2017. After leaving high school I gained a Bachelor of Arts in English from New Mexico State University, before serving in Bulgaria with the United States Peace Corps as an English as a Foreign Language Teacher. Upon returning to the States, I moved to Denver to get licensed as a teacher and was lucky enough to be placed in a public Montessori school in Denver as a student teacher. Over the course of that year I fell in love with the Montessori philosophy, curriculum and lifestyle and so decided to get my elementary Montessori training. When I am not teaching you can find me somewhere outside – hiking, biking, walking on the beach or star gazing.  I like to cook, write, hang out with friends and explore what’s new in science.

  • carolyn@waora.school.nz

Anna Freeman

Rātā Teacher Assistant - Primary

Kia ora! I’m the teacher assistant in Rātā. Originally from Switzerland, I found my way to New Zealand in 2016 through two Scottish degrees, a fascination with Māori oral historiography, and a Kiwi husband. To get used to culture and people I volunteered in a Steiner school near Nelson. This experience encouraged me to study for the postgraduate diploma of teaching at Victoria university, which I completed in 2018. I am excited to continue my learning journey in a Montessori community and hope to gain more professional experience with children this year.

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Robin Barraclough Wilkins

Pūriri Teacher – Primary

I have worked at Wā Ora since 1999 – where else would I find such inspiration? Wā Ora is a school with a strong commitment to Montessori ideals; a school with visionary ideas and innovative thinking alongside the practicalities. I believe Wā Ora reactivates the vision of education as an “aid to life”. I hold a Bachelor of Education, a Diploma of Teaching and Montessori 3-6 training from the London Montessori Centre and various Montessori 6-12 training. Aside from being passionate about Montessori I enjoy music, art, reading, learning and gardening.

  • robin@waora.school.nz

Kathy Illsey

Pūriri Teacher Assistant – Primary

Hello! I joined Wā Ora in October 2019 as assistant to Robin in Pūriri class.  I value children and enjoy the challenges they give us.  I look forward to watching them grow and learn each day.  Outside of the classroom, I enjoy being involved in my children’s activities, visiting libraries and local attractions with my family.  I love reading a good book, local rides on my bike, growing our own veges and playing the piano.

 

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Samantha Hill

Kauri Teacher - Primary

Kia Ora. I have been here at Wā Ora since 2016. I graduated with a Bachelor of Learning Management (Primary Education) in 2015 at the Central Queensland University. In 2017, I completed my 6-12 AMI Assistant Certificate in Auckland. I wanted to deepen my understanding of the Montessori philosophy, so I did some further study in Sydney and graduated with a 6-12 AMI Teaching Diploma in 2020. I love how passionate Wā Ora Montessori children are about being active agents in their own learning. Since being at Wā Ora I have felt a great sense of belonging and community. In my spare time I enjoy bush walks, cooking and playing tennis.

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Helen Stipkovits

Kauri Teacher Assistant - Primary

Hello! I am honoured to be the assistant to Samantha in Kauri class. I began as a Montessori parent, when my children started Montessori in Wellington South, before taking the opportunity to become an assistant at my son’s Montessori school, travelling to Connecticut, USA to complete an AMI 6-12 Assistants course. I completed my practical observation time (course requirement) at Wā Ora and after seeing the authenticity in a solely Montessori school and the continuation from preschool to high school, my children were enrolled! Anneke joined Wā Ora in Kōwhai, last year and I have joined this year! I am also studying by distance with University of Canterbury towards a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning. Out of work, I love to bake, cook, sew, read and swim in the sea.

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Joel Batson

Tōtara Teacher - Primary

Kia Ora!  I am one of the 9-12 teachers in Tōtara class.  I have been teaching since 2009 and at Wā Ora since the beginning of 2014.  I completed my AMI 6-12 training halfway through 2016.  I love teaching 9-12 year old children. Their energy and enthusiasm can be both catching and inspiring. In my spare time I love playing music, reading books, bush-walking and spending time with my family.

  • joel@waora.school.nz

Annette McRae

Tōtara Teacher – Primary

I completed my teacher training at Dunedin Teachers College in 1983 and my Bachelor of Arts at Otago University in 1993. I have been a teacher in Tōtara since mid 2019 and although I am not Montessori trained I continue to be amazed by our students capacities to manage their learning, which follows their interests and passions from a broad spectrum of the Montessori curriculum. I am a performing arts specialist in music, dance and drama and when I am not working, I love to garden and work with materials in costume making and sewing for myself and family.

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Yashoda Jayasinge

Tōtara Teacher Assistant - Primary

Ayubowan! Kia ora! I’m a Teacher Assistant in Tōtara. This is my first appointment to a Montessori school and I’m glad to be assisting Joel and Annette. I’m originally from Sri Lanka and came to New Zealand in 2013. I have a Degree in Natural Sciences and an MSc. in Food Science. I have two lovely kids – my son is 10 and my daughter is 5 – and my husband is an IT professional. During my free time I like to travel with my family, knit and draw wildlife sketches. I represented my college and country (Sri Lanka national team) in hockey during the 1990s.

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Carol Palmer

Tawhai Teacher - Primary

I completed my teacher training in the UK in 2005 and also hold a Graduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning from Canterbury College of Education and have recently completed my AMI Montessori Teacher Training. I have been teaching at Wā Ora since 2013 and love the broad spectrum of the Montessori curriculum and the fact that the children I work with really do follow their own interests and lead their own learning. I have two children at Wā Ora and when I am not working or studying I like to play with textile crafts and costume making.

  • carol@waora.school.nz

Karen McAuley

Tawhai Teacher Assistant - Primary
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Preschool


Dannielle King

Playgroup Facilitator

Kia Ora. I have been working at Wā Ora since 2015. I started out covering lunch breaks and relieving in the preschool, mostly to increase my understanding of Montessori philosophy, as my daughter Michaela had just started. She is now in primary and in addition to lunchtime relief, I also coordinate the playgroup. It is amazing to see how much a 1 or 2 year old can accomplish when given the chance and I love sharing my experiences at Wā Ora with families who are considering a Montessori education for their little one. In my spare time you will usually find me reading, baking or cake decorating.

  • enrol@waora.school.nz

Amy Johnson

Kōwhai Head Teacher – Preschool

I began at Wā Ora in 2015 after previously working in Montessori centres in Australia. I hold a Bachelor of Arts (Linguistics), an AMI 3 – 6 Diploma and a Masters of Education. I love connecting children with the tools in their environment to discover for themselves their own passion for learning and I feel privileged to see them reveal their personality through their interests and actions. Wā Ora provides a lovely environment for this ‘work’ to happen. In my free time, I enjoy camping and hiking with my family and my two young boys keep me busy at the beach, the skatepark and bike tracks but relaxing with a good book in a sunny spot can’t be beat!

  • amyj@waora.school.nz

Becky Domonkos

Kōwhai Teacher – Preschool

Kia ora, ko Becky tāku ingoa, ko Ngati Hine rāua ko Tūwharetoa tāku iwi.   I am a kaiako in Kōwhai class and have a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Teaching). I am a fully registered and experienced teacher with many years teaching in both Aotearoa and Australia. I am passionate about setting our tamariki up for a successful learning journey. Ehara tāku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takimano – My strength is not that of an individual but that of the collective. My second passion is fitness and health and I enjoy the outdoors and am always keen for a challenge. It is my pleasure to be a part of the Wā Ora Montessori school.

  • becky@waora.school.nz

Krista Kerr

Pōhutukawa Head Teacher - Preschool

I have been part of Wā Ora since starting as a parent in 2005, attending playgroup here with my son. Discovering Montessori philosophy inspired me and I returned to university, obtaining my ECE diploma. I enjoyed teaching in our preschool before moving with my family to London to do the AMI 3-6 Diploma and post diploma, returning in 2012 to take up my current position. My two sons are in our high school and I have valued learning about the different sectors as they have moved up the school. I especially enjoy the three-year cycle in Montessori education which allows us to build a strong relationship with tamariki and their whānau. In July 2019 I was elected onto the MANZ council, where I have enjoyed experiencing Montessori pedagogy and philosophy from a different perspective.

  • krista@waora.school.nz

Marie Finkle

Pōhutukawa Teacher - Preschool

I am a teacher in Pōhutukawa, one of the 3-6 classes, and I enjoy the challenge of working with this age group where every day is different. I have been at Wā Ora since 2009 and I have a Montessori Diploma from London Montessori Centre, a Bachelor of Arts from Otago, an ECE Diploma from Victoria and previously worked for thirteen years at Mana Montessori, Whitby. I have four children, all of whom went through Montessori preschool and are now making their way in the world as young adults. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, watching films and creating with textiles.

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Kala Reyes

Rewarewa Head Teacher – Preschool

Kia ora, my name is Kala and I’m delighted to be part of Rewarewa class. I discovered Montessori through my children and I love how it helped them become independent and well-rounded individuals. After relieving in various ECE and Montessori centres, I took the AMI 3–6 Assistants Course in 2017. My curiosity about Montessori kept growing and in January 2020 I graduated the AMI 3–6 teacher training. It was a life-changing experience and one of the best decisions I’ve made! I love connecting children to a prepared environment and seeing them discover what they are capable of. In my free time I enjoy gardening and going on walks.

  • kala@waora.school.nz

Jisun Moir

Rewarewa Teacher – Preschool

I joined the Wā Ora community as a preschool teacher in 2018. I have a Graduate Diploma of Teaching in ECE and have worked at community based early childhood centres around Wellington. I became a part of the Wā Ora community when my first child started in playgroup in 2015. I enjoy the mixed-age setting and the continuity of resources from preschool to the area school. Outside of work, I enjoy crafts, gardening and working towards living a more sustainable lifestyle.

  • jisun@waora.school

Tara Israelson

Nīkau Head Teacher - Preschool

I started my Montessori career in America as an assistant in a classroom in Boston and I was so excited by Montessori that I went on to gain my AMI diploma and Masters of Education in Portland, Oregon. The opportunity to live and work in a new country and learn about a new culture inspired me to join the Wā Ora community in 2008 as the Head Teacher in Nikau. Outside of the classroom I enjoy cooking, fishing, and exploring the New Zealand bush with my son.

  • tara@waora.school.nz

Imee Wong

Nīkau Teacher - Preschool

Hi. I am Imee. I started working at Wā Ora Montessori School in 2010. I am an Early Childhood Teacher working in Nīkau class and enjoy working with the other great passionate teachers at Wā Ora. I enjoy working with children and watching them grow into independent and confident learners. I have two children who currently attend Wā Ora. During my spare time I love to spend time with my family, reading and playing my piano.

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Gillian Johnson

Pōhutukawa, Rewarewa and Outdoors Teacher - Preschool

Hi my name is Gillian Johnson and I am married with two children who both now live in Australia. Our family came to New Zealand in 1997 from South Africa. I studied teacher training in Dunedin and hold a Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood. I worked in daycare and kindergarten settings before moving to work in Montessori environments and have now been at Wā Ora for over 11 years. I have learned a great deal, having attended many workshops and conferences as well in that time. In teaching I enjoy that every day is different and I feel great passion for working with the children and helping them to expand their knowledge. It is a great privilege to assist them through their educational journey and to see the joy and excitement they feel at what they achieve.

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Sophie Gaffney-Henderson

Nīkau, Kōwhai and Outdoors Teacher - Preschool

Kia Ora. My name is Sophie Gaffney-Henderson and my association with Montessori is lifelong, having started in a Montessori playgroup in Dunedin as a toddler, before attending Montessori preschool and primary. I have been an assistant teacher in various preschool classes and the outdoors since late 2013. I’ve also previously taught in the Wā Ora primary school (2009). I love the community here and the complete respect that all the teachers have for the children in their classrooms. I hold a Bachelor of Education Early Years from Massey University and have also attended the Montessori assistants course in Auckland in 2014.

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Jacqui Smith

Preschool Kitchen

I joined Wā Ora in November 2009 as the Kitchen Manager for the preschool. One of the highlights of my role is to interact with the children in the kitchen, supporting the practical Montessori philosophy for children to be part of a community, of which the lunch programme is an integral part. My son has attended Wā Ora from preschool and is now in the college programme. Weekends are usually spent either at sports, catching up with friends or in Waikanae with family.

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Specialist Subjects


Tama Smith

Drama Teacher - Primary and High School

Kia ora koutou katoa. 2020 will be my first year as a member of the Wā Ora community. After teaching at Wā Ora the last 5 weeks of 2019, I have been very impressed by its unique character. There is a special sense of community that is built on respectful relationships and the value of independent thought and collaboration. As a passionate advocate for education that engages the wider community I am excited to explore the way that a performing arts programme can develop positive service and citizenship. I have been teaching Performing Arts for 20 years, most recently concluding a 14-year stretch as Head of Drama and Dance at Hutt Valley High School. I have a Bachelor of Education, Diploma in Technical Theatre Production and in 2016 I completed my Master of Theatre Arts. I value my personal time with my two children, partner and two schnauzers. I enjoy live music along with devising and directing independent performance work in the Wellington Theatre community.

  • tama@waora.school.nz

Emma Brazil

Physical Education Teacher - Primary and High School

Kia Ora. My name is Emma and I started at Wā Ora in 2018. I have a Bachelor of Physical Education from the University of Otago and a Postgraduate Diploma of Teaching in health and physical education from Victoria University. Having not worked in a Montessori school before I am excited to join such passionate and dedicated staff in guiding and inspiring learners towards success. I love Wā Ora’s emphasis of working within a wider community; the vibe of this within the school is truly evident. Out of school, I am a passionate hockey player and enjoy all sorts of sports and outdoor activities.

  • emmab@waora.school.nz

Michael Stebbings

Music Teacher – Primary

I started teaching at Wā Ora in 2016 and have been working as an intinerant music and singing teacher for seven years. I have a Masters degree in Music and a Postgraduate Certificate of Education, both from the UK. I moved to New Zealand four years ago, having wanted to come here all my life and am loving living and working in this wonderful country. Wā Ora is an exciting and dynamic place to work, with energetic and enthusiastic students and, having not worked in a Montessori school before, I’m finding the exposure to the philosophy fascinating. Aside from teaching, I’m passionate about singing and musical theatre and regularly perform in and  direct music in shows in Wellington.

  • michaels@waora.school.nz

Lisa Chin

Mandarin Teacher - Primary and High School

I have worked at Wā Ora since 2011, teaching Mandarin to children from primary through to high school and NCEA. I have a double degree in Languages and Mathematics for Primary and Secondary. I feel that Wā Ora is culturally inclusive and willing to celebrate different cultures. I love teaching at Wā Ora, as it gives me a chance to experience and see the growth in students’ learning from primary up to secondary. In my spare time I enjoy singing, dancing, painting, and cooking a variety of food for my family.

  • lisa@waora.school.nz

Amber Bell

Art Teacher - Primary and High School

Kia ora Wā Ora whānau. I am Amber. I have been a fully registered teacher since 2010. I have taught in both Montessori and Steiner pedagogies in five different countries. I hold certificates in 9–12 Montessori, NAMTA Whole School Management, Steiner Education, ASD and Outdoor Classroom. I also hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts and am an active artist in painting, pottery and Oamaru stone media. I have two adorable chihuahuas and spend most of my free time either in the arts or discovering new outdoor spaces in gorgeous New Zealand. I enjoy integrating both the arts and outdoor classroom models with our students.

  • amber@waora.school.nz

Louane Ngataki

Te Reo Māori Teacher - Primary and High School

I have been teaching for over 15 years and have been with Wā Ora since August 2014. I hold a Diploma of Teaching, a Diploma in Te Reo Māori and He Tohu Mātauranga Māori. I consider it a wonderful privilege to be part of a vibrant, energetic and fantastic team of dedicated staff. I have four children (2 sons and 2 daughters) in their 20’s and I am so very proud of all my children’s academic and sporting achievements. I enjoy gardening, reading and going for nature walks in my spare time. I also love netball and have coached and umpired various netball teams over the last 20 years from primary, intermediate, college and women’s grades.

  • louane@waora.school.nz

Admin and Support


Hayley Luan

Executive Officer

Kia ora. My name is Hayley and I joined Wā Ora in 2018 as the Executive Officer. Being part of the administration and support team, I provide budgetary and financial information and reports to all stakeholders and work as the board secretary as well. I have a background in finance and accounting and have worked in the banking and a charitable sector before joining Wā Ora.  In my spare time I enjoy watching movies, studying Japanese, reading books and travelling with my family and friends.

  • hayley@waora.school.nz

Sharon Darby

Office Receptionist

I started working at Wā Ora in 2016 having returned  to New Zealand after spending 5 years back home in Scotland.  I have a background in administration and finance and previously worked in the charity sector in Scotland supporting young families. I enjoy working with families and I enjoy the cultural diversity of New Zealand and feel Wā Ora embraces that. I have enjoyed reconnecting with old friends again and exploring New Zealand and its many campsites with my children now that they are a little older.  In my spare time I love cooking and baking and I’m currently working my way through Chelsea Winter’s cookbooks.

  • office@waora.school.nz

Donna Walkinshaw

Financial Administrator

I started at Wā Ora in 1993 when the school was a much smaller and not so busy place as these days! I am responsible for all things financial at Wā Ora and am located in the front office. I am a dog lover and when I am not at work, I enjoy biking, spending time with my family and travelling to be with our grandchildren and friends.

  • donna@waora.school.nz

Jo Dyer

Personal Assistant to Principal

I came to Wā Ora in 2009 and have enjoyed the diversity of this position as it has developed over the years. There are certainly many facets of this role to keep me busy including working alongside the Principal to ensure the smooth running of the school, assisting with staff needs, providing strong administrative support and anything else that is required! I have a son who attends Wā Ora and in my down time I enjoy being outdoors and spending time with family and friends.

  • joanne@waora.school.nz

Relda Hermann

Marketing Administrator

I have worked at Wā Ora since 2014 and handle marketing and communication for Wā Ora. I enjoy the variety of my role and working with a great team. My 3 children, now in the college and 9-12 programmes, have attended Wā Ora since preschool/playgroup. When not working or parenting you will find me gardening, reading or involved in some form of home DIY! I am also learning the art of dot painting and enjoying planning my future travels to far off places.

  • relda@waora.school.nz

Emma Schrader

Enrolments Administrator

My sons started in the Wā Ora playgroup and preschool in 2015 and following on from this, I then I began working in the preschool classrooms at lunchtimes in 2016.  This gave me an insight into the world my children inhabit on a daily basis and the freedom they have to explore their own path. We were quickly made to feel at home in the Wā Ora community and feel very lucky to be here. In 2017 I took on the role of Enrolments Administrator. When I’m not working, I enjoy sewing, cinema and catching up with friends and family.

  • emmaschrader@waora.school.nz

Juliette George

Reading Recovery – Primary School

2017 was my first official year at Wā Ora, retraining on the Reading Recovery programme, having spent many past years relieving here and teaching in other schools. I hold a Bachelor of Education from Victoria University and Diploma in Teaching from Wellington College of Education. I am married with two children who have both attended Wā Ora since playgroup. Teaching literacy to students, who initially find it a struggle, is an incredibly rewarding job and I feel a little spoiled that I get to teach at Wā Ora in this capacity, being able to integrate the special character of the school through Reading Recovery. I love that each morning my children and I are now all heading to the same place of learning! I love sharing nature with my family, gardening, hanging with our family pets and all things art.

  • juliette@waora.school.nz

Julie Owen

Specialist Teacher - Literacy

Hi I’m Julie and I began in 2009 at Wā Ora as a preschool teacher, before leaving in 2014 to pursue training to enable me to work with children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. I returned to Wā Ora in 2017 to help support children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties in the primary and high school. I hold a Bachelor of Education, a Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Primary) from Massey University, a Montessori 3-6 AMI Diploma and Basic and Advanced Davis Training. My 2 youngest children are now in the high school at Wā Ora and in my spare time I enjoy reading, swimming and outdoor adventures with my family.

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Sarah Jane Lambie

Micro Economy Teacher and Sports Coordinator - High School

I have been working at Wā Ora in various part-time teaching and events management roles since 2011. I have a Bachelors of Arts Degree, a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and a Masters Degree of Library and Information Science. I enjoy the special sense of commitment, community and belonging at Wā Ora, both as a teacher and as a parent of the school. My children are in Kawakawa class and my interests include being their mother, gardening, reading and netball. For relaxation I love bush walking, listening to music and practising yoga.

  • sarahjane@waora.school.nz

Kelly Walker

Librarian – Primary School

My background consists of wearing many hats, the most challenging and rewarding of which is being a solo mum to my son, who already attends Wā Ora and my daughter, who is waiting to start preschool. Previously, I have worked on a cruise ship and held various management positions within the hospitality and EECA industries. My early years were spent in a Montessori preschool and I love the philosophy and community feel Wā Ora provides. As the librarian, I am enjoying the opportunity to let my creative side flourish and getting to know all of the books. When I’m not working, I enjoy exploring what wellington has to offer with my kids, baking and scrapbooking.

  • kelly@waora.school.nz

Thilini Perera

After School Care Supervisor

I come from Sri Lanka, having moved here about three years ago. I have a background in math and physics and have taught children in Sri Lanka from 5–19 years of age. Since coming to New Zealand, I have spent time nannying and volunteering as a  housekeeper at Omega hospice, as well as looking after my own 5-year-old and new baby.

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