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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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Byron Lynds

Treasurer

Hi. My name is Byron Lynds and my wife Sophie and I have four children, two nephews and two daughters. Both Jack and Addison started Wā Ora at the beginning of this 2020.  I am a Chartered Accountant who works at Hutt International Boys’ School as the Director of Finance and Property and am heavily involved in their Board processes. My fundamental aspirations in life comprise of; making a positive difference to the world around me, growing as an individual and being the best Father I can be.

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Lillian Pak

Member
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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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Suzi Parle

Member

Kia Ora, originally from Scotland, I moved to New Zealand in 2012, with my husband and I am proud to now be a New Zealand Citizen. Our daughter is part of the primary school. Whilst studying for my PGDE(P) I discovered the Montessori Philosophy; my interest was piqued and I am grateful our daughter has the opportunity to grow and develop a lifelong love of learning at Wā Ora. Currently, I coach with Wellington Riding for the Disabled and also carry out Operational Certificate Reviews for our National body, NZRDA. In my coaching role I am passionate about the integration of the NZ curriculum and a multi body approach in providing an effective and relevant program to facilitate skills for life and community participation for our riders. I believe in an inclusive and holistic approach in all I do.

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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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Naomi Holland

Student Representative

Hi, my name is Naomi. I am a year 13 student in Tāwari. I joined the Wā Ora community in 2012 as a year 4, and have loved growing up in this school’s environment. As the student representative on the Board of Trustees, I would like to communicate more with the high school students about school-related Board decisions. I appreciate how Wā Ora allows students to be themselves and make decisions independently. At this school, I have been offered so many opportunities to expand my interests, such as joining the futsal team and participating in the Kawakawa market. My other interests are fencing, rowing and playing viola.

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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

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

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

Hamish Buddle

Deputy Principal – High School

Kia ora. I am Hamish and the High School Deputy Principal. I have worked in a wide range of New Zealand schools (including as the PE Teacher at Wā Ora from 2015-2017) and an international school in Taiwan. Wā Ora has always stood out to me through its strong grounding in Montessori philosophy from the preschool through to the high school. It is this unique character that really sets it apart and I feel privileged to be able to work with our amazing ākonga. Outside of school I love anything involving water, particularly surfing. I live in Lyall Bay with my partner, our two young daughters and a miniature schnauzer called Arthur.

  • hamish@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


Hamish Buddle

Deputy Principal – High School

Kia ora. I am Hamish and the High School Deputy Principal. I have worked in a wide range of New Zealand schools (including as the PE Teacher at Wā Ora from 2015-2017) and an international school in Taiwan. Wā Ora has always stood out to me through its strong grounding in Montessori philosophy from the preschool through to the high school. It is this unique character that really sets it apart and I feel privileged to be able to work with our amazing ākonga. Outside of school I love anything involving water, particularly surfing. I live in Lyall Bay with my partner, our two young daughters and a miniature schnauzer called Arthur.

  • hamish@waora.school.nz

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 love hanging out with our Kawakawa adolescents where I work full time teaching a variety of subjects. You never know, with teenagers, where your day will end up, but one thing is guaranteed, it will be interesting. Originally from the UK, my love of travelling led me to live in Japan where I discovered Taiko and snowboarding. Through travelling I have grown to love all areas of learning and share this with our ākonga. I enjoy being active, usually have a project on the go and I am at my happiest in the mountains snowboarding or doing something snow related.

  • 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 - 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; Careers Adviser - 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 and Digital Technology 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, two and three 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

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 Tāwari 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

Fran Kingston

Rātā Teacher Assistant - Primary

I started working at Wā Ora in 2018 and have worked in many different roles.  I was beyond excited to do the AMI Montessori 6-12 Assistants certificate in 2020 and now to begin my Montessori journey in Rātā class. I am a mother of two, live locally in this amazing community and love the outdoors. I enjoy weaving, knitting and baking up a storm.

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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 teacher assistant to Samantha in Kauri class. I began my Montessori journey as a parent with my children attending Montessori education in Wellington City. I then took up an opportunity to become an assistant at my son’s Montessori primary school, and travelled to Connecticut, USA to complete an AMI 6-12 Assistants course with Gerry Leonard. I completed my practical observation time (a 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! I followed not too far after, and have been working here since January 2019. I am also studying by distance with University of Canterbury towards a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning, currently in my third year and on finishing will then begin my AMI 6-12 Teaching Diploma. In my spare time I love making food from scratch, sewing things to gift and I especially enjoy a refreshing swim in the ocean.

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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

Anna Freeman

Tōtara Teacher – Primary

Kia ora! I am Anna, one of the teachers in Tōtara. After completing my Graduate Diploma of Teaching at Victoria University in 2018, I started working at Wā Ora in 2019 as the Teacher Assistant in Rātā. In 2020 I held the same position. This year, I am excited to begin my Montessori Training while continuing to work in the Wā Ora Montessori community. My interests are permaculture gardening, playing the piano, and reading.

  • annaf@waora.school.nz

Yashoda Jayasinge

Tōtara Teacher Assistant - Primary

Ayubowan! Kia ora! I’m a Teacher Assistant in Tōtara. 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 Technology. I have recently completed my AMI  6-12 Teacher Assistant course. I have two lovely kids and my husband is an IT professional. I love being with 9 to 12 years olds and experiencing how energetic they are. Hockey is my favourite game because I played for ‘Sri lanka National girls Hockey team’ for many years. During my free time I like to travel with my family, knit and draw wildlife sketches.

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Belinda Rodrigues

Tawhai Teacher - Primary

Kia ora I am Belinda, William and I have four sons and two beautiful grandchildren a boy and a girl. I have rejoined Wā Ora after teaching in Melbourne for the last eight years and teach in Tawhai class. I taught at Wā Ora for approximately 11 years before I moved to Melbourne and I am happy to be back and feel very much at home at Wā Ora.  I graduated as a Primary teacher from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch and gained my Montessori 6-12 diploma through AMS, New York. During my free time I enjoy reading and anything that stimulates my creativity.

  • belinda@waora.school.nz

Karen McAuley

Tawhai Teacher Assistant - Primary

Morena. I’m the Teacher Assistant in Tawhai and mother of 3 adult children and a nana to 2 gorgeous grandsons. My children grew up with extra children in the house as I child minded on and off while being a stay-at-home Mum. I started working with children in the early 2000’s, working across the kindergarten, primary and intermediate sectors in Lower Hutt supporting children with additional needs. A move to Australia gave the opportunity to study and work in early childhood care, which I did for 6 years until moving back to Lower Hutt. I have recently completed the AMI Teacher Assistant course and enjoy supporting Belinda and Tawhai children here at Wā Ora. My interests include gardening, craftwork, ukulele and spending time outdoors with my hens, lambs, calves and grand kids.

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Preschool


Suzanne Eaddy

Playgroup Facilitator

My name is Suzanne Eaddy, Playgroup Supervisor. My tribal affiliations are Te
Ati Awa, Ngai Tahu plus English genealogy. My previous career was primary health nursing. My nursing practice had an educational basis as I supported students on clinical placement and my last OPD paper considered the variations between traditional learning for Aboriginal children versus the Western state education style, with regard to health literacy. My hobbies include gardening, cooking and preserving. I have a long association with Wā Ora, as my grandsons Brian and James, now both in High School, attended playgroup as did my granddaughter Michaela.  Brian’s first visit to playgroup began our family’s involvement with Wā Ora.

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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 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

Ingrid Peke

Kōwhai Teacher – Preschool

Kia ora, my name is Ingrid Peke.  I am a kaiako in the Kōwhai class.  I have been in the early childhood sector for over 20 years and hold a Diploma of Teaching, early childhood education with full teacher’s registration.  I have taught both here in New Zealand and in Australia.  I am new to the Montessori philosophy, having only learnt about it in my training, but I am looking forward to embarking on this journey with such a supportive and knowledgeable teaching team, with the community of learners from Wā ora. I have 2 sons, both in their 20’s.  I have 1 granddaughter and 1 very supportive husband.  In my spare time I like to spend time with family, garden and explore our country.

  • ingrid@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

Becky Domonkos

Rewarewa Teacher – Preschool

Kia ora, ko Becky tāku ingoa, ko Ngati Hine rāua ko Tūwharetoa tāku iwi.   I am a kaiako in Rewarewa 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.

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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 teaching 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 teenagers, Marcus and Emily. In my spare time, I love to spend time with my family, reading and baking. I also love listening to classical music and watching movies.

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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

Kia ora, I joined Wā Ora in November 2009 as the Preschool Kitchen Manager. Highlights of my role include interacting with the children in the kitchen, linking our preschool garden with the lunch programme provided and supporting the practical Montessori philosophy for our tamariki to be part of a community. My son attended Wā Ora from preschool and recently graduated in 2020.  Weekends are spent either at basketball or volleyball, catching up with friends or in Waikanae with family.

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Specialist Subjects


Annette McRae

Drama Teacher – Primary and High School

I completed my teacher training at Dunedin Teachers College in 1983 and my Bachelor of Arts at Otago University in 1993. This year I am in a new teaching role as Drama Teacher for all primary classes, Kawakawa and senior Tawari drama.  I look forward to contributing to the Wa Ora Arts community and providing our akonga with experiences and opportunities to transform their creative ideas into expressive works.When I am not working, I love to garden and work with materials in costume making and sewing for myself and family. I am a member of the Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe and help out with costuming. My desire to remain fit, active and healthy finds me frequently attending Les Mills gym.

  • annette@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 work alongside 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


Dannielle King

Office Administrator

Kia ora. I have worked at Wā Ora since 2015, starting in the preschool, mostly to increase my understanding of Montessori philosophy, as my daughter had just started, and also coordinating the playgroup for 4 years. It is amazing to see what a toddler can accomplish when given the chance, and I loved sharing my experiences at Wā Ora with families considering a Montessori education for their little one. Now you can find me working in the main office as the office administrator. In my spare time I enjoy reading, baking or cake decorating. I am also learning Te Reo Māori so please feel free to kōrero Māori mai!

  • office@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

Sharon Darby

Administrator - Communications and Marketing

I started working at Wā Ora in 2016 in the enrolments role before moving to the office. 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 love the cultural diversity of New Zealand and feel Wā Ora embraces that. Recently I have moved into the Marketing Administrator role and I am enjoying some new challenges while remaining part of the admin team.  Outside of work, I have two teenagers who keep me busy.

 

  • 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 it is these days! I am part of the financial team within the administration team and can be found in the office block. I am a dog lover and currently involved in being a Guide dog puppy raiser for Blind Low Vision NZ.  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 and Office Manager

I began my journey at Wā Ora in 2009 and have enjoyed the diversity of this position as it has developed over the years from PA to the Principal to now include Office Manager responsibilities. There are certainly many facets of this role to keep me busy including working alongside the Principal, the Senior Leadership Team and staff to ensure the smooth running of the school.  I have two sons who attend Wā Ora and in my down time I enjoy being outdoors, walking and spending time with family and friends.

  • joanne@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 youngest child attends the high school at Wā Ora.  In my spare time I enjoy reading, swimming and outdoor adventures with my family.

  • N/A

Sarah Jane Lambie

Micro Economy Teacher and Sports Coordinator

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 Tāwari 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 attends Wā Ora Primary, and my daughter, who attends the Preschool. Previously, I have worked on a cruise ship and held various management positions within the hospitality and EECA industries. Growing up, my early years were spent in a Montessori Preschool in Christchurch and I love the philosophy and community feel Wā Ora provides. I love being a lunch-time reliever in the Preschool and conversing with our younger students. And as the Librarian for the Area School, I am enjoying the opportunity to let my creative side flourish and getting to know all of the fabulous resources we have available. 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

My name is Thilini and I joined  Wa Ora in 2017 as an Afterschool Care Supervisor. I am from Sri Lanka and moved to New Zealand in 2015. Previously I worked as a secondary maths and physics teacher for seven years in Sri Lanka. I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree  in maths and physics and recently completed an after school care and recreation certificate and educational support certificate. I live in Upper Hutt with my husband and our two sons Diyan and Dylan. In my leisure time, I like reading, spending time with my family and tutoring maths.

  • N/A
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