We are currently accepting applications for younger tamariki turning 3 after April 2025.

Our Staff

Leadership Team

Ava

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.

principal@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.school.nz

Tanya Laybourn

Deputy Principal - High School

I returned to Wā Ora to take the role of DP at the High School in 2024 after teaching in the beautiful Bay of Plenty for 6 years at Pāpāmoa College. I am passionate about EOTC (Education Outside the Classroom)  and believe the most profound learning comes from going beyond the four walls of the classroom and doing stuff that is real. My teaching subject is English and I feel strongly that we need to set up our students to be great communicators in all aspects of their lives.

I have two children that are beginning to make their way in the real world. My daughter is studying Sociology and Pacific Studies, and my son is planning to study Performing Arts. I fill my spare time with adventures including bike packing, tramping, camping, skiing and taking my dog to the beach.

I value the way Montessori Education addresses the needs of the whole child and endeavours to engage the learner with meaningful contexts and choices.

tanya@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

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

High School

Tanya Laybourn​

Deputy Principal - High School

I returned to Wā Ora to take the role of DP at the High School in 2024 after teaching in the beautiful Bay of Plenty for 6 years at Pāpāmoa College. I am passionate about EOTC (Education Outside the Classroom)  and believe the most profound learning comes from going beyond the four walls of the classroom and doing stuff that is real. My teaching subject is English and I feel strongly that we need to set up our students to be great communicators in all aspects of their lives.

I have two children that are beginning to make their way in the real world. My daughter is studying Sociology and Pacific Studies, and my son is planning to study Performing Arts. I fill my spare time with adventures including bike packing, tramping, camping, skiing and taking my dog to the beach.

I value the way Montessori Education addresses the needs of the whole child and endeavours to engage the learner with meaningful contexts and choices.

tanya@waora.school.nz

Sarah Jane Lambie

Kawakawa Teacher

I have been working at Wā Ora in various part-time teaching and events management roles since 2011. In 2022 I was appointed full-time teacher in Kawakawa class. 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 graduated in 2021.  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

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

Kristen Gibb

Kawakawa Teacher - High School

I started secondary teaching in 2014 after a career as a Chef and haven’t looked back.  Before that I spent time in Taiwan, teaching English to 4-year-olds.  I hold a Bachelor of Broadcasting Communications from the New Zealand Broadcasting School and a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching from the University of Auckland.

I’m very excited to be part of the Kawakawa team, teaching Humanities, Occupations and Product & Exchange.  And for the first time, Wā Ora will be offering Hospitality to the Tāwari students which is a wonderful opportunity to fully utilise the incredible commercial kitchen.

When I’m not teaching I love walking in nature, road trips, camping, beach swims, eating spicy noodles and op-shopping.  I live in Wellington with my partner and young daughter

kristen@waora.school.nz

 

Elizabeth Naudé

Kawakawa Teacher - High School

My name is Elizabeth, a new Kawakawa teacher from South Africa, now living in Lower Hutt. With a Bachelor’s degree in Education and five years of teaching experience, I’m passionate about shaping young minds. I love the outdoors, animals, and consider myself a “jack of all trades.” I’m excited to make a positive impact on my students’ lives in this beautiful country!

elizabeth@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 my children started in the pre-school in 2001. I’ve come later to teaching, after a career in IT and management consulting.  I love the way Montessori education helps our ākonga develop as contributing members of their communities.  I also love the way it engages them in projects that integrate learning across multiple fields, equipping them to make the sort of differences they want in the world.  I see these things in my own children and feel privileged to be helping develop them in the ākonga here.

michaeld@waora.school.nz

Keiron Harding

Hard Tech Teacher - High School

Primary School

Tania Gaffney

Rātā Head Teacher - 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.school.nz

Robyn Windley

Rātā Teacher – Primary

I have many years experience within both Primary and Early Childhood settings. I have a Bachelor of Arts with an English major and have had a particular interest in literacy in both sectors.
 
I have relieved in a Montessori centre previously and have a strong interest in the philosophy. My own personal philosophy is based on high respect for each ākonga, embracing them each as individuals – their own unique strengths, interests and journey. I believe the environment is the third teacher and prepare this accordingly and always work to create strong partnerships with whānau. I enjoy getting involved with the community as a whole and in previous roles have embraced being the sport coordinator, running school productions and choirs, many clubs and celebrations.

Amy Strawbridge

Rātā Teacher Assistant – Primary

Robin Barraclough Wilkins

Pūriri Head 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.

Helen Stipkovits

Kauri Head Teacher - Primary

Kia ora, I am Helen Stipkovits, kaiārahi in akomanga Kauri. 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 worked as an assistant in Kauri for a number of years while completing my Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (Primary) with University of Canterbury. I left Wā Ora at the end of 2021 to focus on further studies, starting both my AMI 6-12 Diploma with Rebecca Dallam, and a Masters in Education endorsed in Inclusive and Special Education with UC, but I am back now in this teacher role, excited about putting all that I have learnt, and continue to learn, into practice.

helens@waora.school.nz

Acuna, Karen

Karen Acuna

Kauri Teacher Assistant - Primary

ēnā koutou katoa
Ko Cerro Colorado toku maunga
Ko Rimac toku awa
Nō Peru ahau

I moved to New Zealand 13 years ago. I got my bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and tourism. I worked in that industry for 3 years, then moved to Administration and finally found my passion in Early Childhood education. Working at Playcentre I have deepened my understanding of how critical proper guidance and brain development are while connecting with children, a topic I read as a hobby since it is so fascinating.

I love how we guide children to find their own passions in a Montessori environment that is carefully and beautifully prepared by the kaiārahi. I enjoy creating things, baking, and board games (Except Monopoly).

Belinda Rodrigues

Tāwhai 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 and teach in Tāwhai class, after teaching in Melbourne for the last eight years . 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

Anna Freeman

Tōtara Teacher – Primary

Kia ora! I am Anna, one of the teachers in Tōtara. After completing my Teacher Training in 2018 I started working at Wā Ora. Seeing the Montessori philosophy in action motivated me to begin and complete my Montessori training. I especially like that it is founded in strong teacher-student relationships and the freedom that it can afford both teachers and students. In the Montessori framework students learn about the whole of the universe, get to know their teachers over three years, and will learn that freedom comes with responsibilities and boundaries. When I am not teaching I can be found gardening, crafting, or relaxing with a good book.

annaf@waora.school.nz

Nadine Smyth

Tōtara Teacher - Primary

Kia ora, ko Nadine tōku ingoa.  I am a lifelong learner; completing a BA in English Literature in 1994, returning to Victoria University to complete a Master of Teaching and Learning (Primary) in 2020.  I  appreciate dance and music, am a lover of all kitchen gadgets and enjoy travelling and meeting people from different nations and cultures.  I am a proud mother of two Montessorians, wife of Jeremy and sister to 7.  Overcoming serial book collecting is a long term ambition.  My greatest achievement in recent memory is singing and playing the guitar at the same time.  I look forward to continuing the Montessori journey with AMI training and spending my days with the wonderful Wa Ora Montessori hapori.

“Ke te Kotahi te kakaho ka whati, ki te kapuia, e kore e whati” – When we stand alone we are vulnerable but together we are unbreakable.

nadine@waora.school.nz

 

Katja Nijmeijer

Tōtara Teacher Aide - Primary

I joined Wā Ora at the beginning of 2024 after having spent the previous 20 years working multiple corporate jobs in marketing, Real Estate, and administration. Having this perspective and life experience has helped me be open to new endeavours and challenges. At Wā Ora, I work as a Teacher Aide, which is both exciting and complex. Besides being at school, I am also currently learning new skills through the “Educational Support” course via the Open Polytechnic. I live in Lower Hutt with my husband and twin girls, and my hobbies are reading, and cherishing the time with our senior dog Odin, who still thinks he’s a Labrador puppy while actually being 12 years of age.

katja@waora.school.nz

 

Samantha Hill

Tōtora 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.

Preschool

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wenlu Qin

Outdoors Teacher - Preschool

Kia ora, and 你好(nĭ hăo)! I am Wenlu. I was a secondary teacher trained in China with a BA in English Language and Literature and an MA in Linguistics. I am also holding an MSc in Development Studies from UCL. I worked in public service for many years before returning to my true calling in teaching with a play-based English language learning workshop for preschoolers in China, and this ultimately led me to New Zealand for my studies in early childhood education. After obtaining my Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood Education), I have had the privilege of working with young children for the past four years. In my role as a teacher, I see myself as a listener, an observer, a documentation recorder, a resource of language and ideas, a facilitator of learning, and a co-constructor of knowledge and meaning. During my free time, I indulge in my love for reading, sketching, hiking, photography, and classical music. I live in Lower Hutt with my wife and our daughter.

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.

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.

Specialist Subjects

Craig Bluett

Art Teacher - Primary and High School

Kia ora, I gained my Bachelor of Fine Arts from Otago School of Fine Arts with a Major in Art History from Ilam, Canterbury University.

I have taught visual art at Wā Ora since term 2 last year. I love teaching a range of age groups and I have constantly been delighted by the positivity and creativity of ākonga in this wonderful Montessori environment. I have noticed how staff and parents have contributed hugely to this wonderful learning environment. As an
experienced teacher I have taught in a variety of schools as well as in the Territory system as a course coordinator, lecturer, and tutor. I ran my own art education business for 12 years.

As an exhibiting painter and printmaker in Aotearoa and internationally, I am passionate about all the arts; I also love performing in plays and singing when I can. I have also painted a considerable number of murals for commission. Engaging in my own practice as an artist helps me to inspire students.

A picture is worth a thousand words!

Nga Mihi nui Na

craig@waora.school.nz

Loughlin Bennett

High School P.E Teacher

Samantha Hill

P.E Teacher and Sports Coordinator - 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. This degree included studying the health and physical education curriculum, motor development, skill acquisition, coaching games and sports. In 2017, I completed the AMI Assistant Certificate in Auckland with Alison Awes. In 2018, I wanted to deepen my understanding of the Montessori philosophy, so I did some further study in Sydney and graduated with my 6-12 AMI Montessori Diploma in 2020 with Rebecca Dallam. In 2022, I stepped out of my role as the head teacher in a 6-9 classroom to have my beautiful baby girl. I returned to Wā Ora part-time in 2023 and worked across the Primary school in a range of roles. In 2024, I became the Primary PE  Teacher and Sports Coordinator. I love how passionate Wā Ora Montessori children are about being active agents in their own learning.

In my spare time, I enjoy swimming, bush walks and trips to the park with my daughter and partner.

samantha@waora.school.nz

 

Lottie Butcher

Drama Teacher

Kia Ora! I’m the Drama Teacher and teach at both the Primary and Secondary Schools, I am originally from the UK and started teaching in London in 2007. I have a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from The Central School of Speech and Drama.

Since then, I have taught in both India and Uganda, before settling in New Zealand, where I ran my own Drama School in Lower Hutt.  I live locally, with my husband, 3 children and 2 dogs. I still enjoy regularly performing, mainly in theatre and I host my own weekly radio show which celebrates the local arts scene.  I also love walking and drinking cups of tea (not at the same time)!

lottie@waora.school.nz

Michael Stebbings

Music Teacher – Primary and High School

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

Vacant

Te Reo Māori Teacher - Primary and High School

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

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

Ashleigh Wilkins

Communications and Marketing Coordinator

Kia ora! My journey with Montessori started around 44 years ago when I attended Montessori preschool in Dunedin. My Wā Ora journey started almost 25 years ago when my mother started working (and still does!) at Wā Ora. So, you could say Montessori has been a way of life for me since I was a small child. I have India (10) who joined Wā Ora at 4 in Kōwhai when we moved to Lower Hutt from Wairarapa. She is now enjoying life in Tāwhai! I also have Leila (7) who has been a part of Wā Ora since crawling around the preschool playground at a few months old. She started her education journey in playgroup, went on to Nīkau when she was 3, and is now in Rātā! Becoming part of the amazing Wā Ora team was the next natural step, and I feel lucky to be part of the Wā Ora family. Outside of work, I love exploring the beautiful walks and beaches we have here in the Hutt, with my fur side-kick, Kali (who many of you will have met in the office), and getting into the garden when I have time!

ashleigh@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

Renee White

Health and Wellbeing Guide

Hannah Tysoe

Librarian - Primary School

Kia ora! My employment at Wā Ora began in 2022. I have a background in administration & volunteering with children. I also have a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language and Asian Studies. I am a self-confessed book nerd and strongly believe that collecting books is the best way to decorate. I am excited that in my role as librarian I can encourage ngā tamariki in their reading journeys & research projects. I am also passionate about Montessori education and am looking forward to increasing my knowledge in this area. I have 3 children who attend the school. Outside school I enjoy playing board games, going on bush walks and reading a good book.

hannah@waora.school.nz