Highly qualified staff | Little School

Highly qualified staff

Maria Johnson

Managing Director/Owner/Licensee

Hi my name is Maria Johnson.  I spent my childhood growing up on a farm with my parents, two brothers and three sisters.

I moved to Wellington after training as a Primary School teacher at Hamilton Teachers College and completing my Bachelor of Education at Waikato University. B.Ed, Dip. Tching Primary. In 2006 I studied full time and gained my Early Childhood qualifications from the New Zealand College of Early Childhood Education.

I have four beautiful boys - Mathew, Joshua, Benjamin and Jacob (twins). I love being with my children and watching them grow and develop as individuals! Being a Mum is the greatest job in the world (even though sometimes it tests our patience).

I really enjoy spending time with family and friends, relaxing in my garden and being creative. When there is any spare time I also like to exercise.

I established Little School in 2002 and since then our organisation has grown to continually meet the demand of our families.

I am passionate and ambitious about young children discovering their abilities and providing them with the knowledge, skills and values to make them lifelong learners.  I continually aspire to be a leader in education and thoroughly enjoy this journey.  I am extremely fortunate to work alongside a brilliant team of dedicated teachers at Little School.  Together we aspire to be widely recognised leaders in preschool education.

I am on the Teachers Disciplinary Tribuanl, and a member of the Life Education National Board. 


2012; Wellington Supreme Business Woman of the year, Wellington Best Small to Medium Business, Finalist EY Entrepreneur of the Year, Next Education Finalist.

2017; Finalist Wellington Business Gold Awards, Finalist New Zealand Women of Influence Awards.



Megan Watson

Operations Manager/Enrolments

Hi my name is Megan. I began working as a Teacher at Little School when it first began in 2003.

I have a Diploma in Teaching Early Childhood which I completed at Whitirea Polytech. I then nannyed for two very special families which have remained a special part of my life and I still enjoy watching the children grow.

I took a break from Little School in 2007 when I had my son Oscar, who is a delight. I returned to Little School in 2009 when I became a member of the Management Team which I really enjoy. My son attended Kelburn Little School and was enriched by this experience.

In my sparetime I enjoy cooking, skiing and spending my time with family and friends.

Jane Jennings

Curriculum Co-ordinator

Hi, my name is Jane.  I began working as a teacher at Little School just after it first began in 2003.

I have a Diploma of Teaching in ECE and a Bachelor of Education which I completed at Dunedin College of Education and Otago University in the early 90's.

From mid 2004-2008 I took a break from Little School and Andrew and I had our two children Sarah and Harry - they are busy little people who bring lots of joy, love and laughter to our house.  Sarah attended Khandallah Little School and Harry went to Kelburn before transferring to Khandallah - so I have an interest and perspective in the schools as a parent and as an educator.

I returned to Little School in 2008 as a release teacher and in 2010 I became part of the Management Team and took on the role of teacher support and curriculum support.

In my spare time I enjoy running, walking, cooking, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Chloe Reynolds

PA/Office Administrator
Hi, my name is Chloe and I grew up in Essex, England. I graduated from Aberystwyth University with a BSc Honours in Sport and Exercise Science, and started my career in education as a Housemistress at a special needs boarding school. I then decided to take a career break to travel, visiting countries in South East Asia, working in Australia and finally settling in Wellington.
I enjoy the Wellington lifestyle; spending time outside and on the beach! I love travelling, and I have a long list of places in New Zealand still to visit. 

Emily O'Connor

Hi my name is Emily.
I am originally from Nelson where I grew up with my parents, two older brothers and a younger sister. 
I moved to Wellington in 2016 to study at Victoria University of Wellington, where I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Accounting and Commercial Law. 
In my spare time I like to spend time with my friends and family. 


Kelburn Little School

Penny Hill

Kelburn Little School (K2) - Head Teacher - Parental Leave

Kia ora, my name is Penelope (you are welcome to call me Penny). I studied at Victoria University to complete my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Education and an additional Graduate Diploma in Primary School Teaching. I have been working at Churton Park Little School since 2013, and I am very happy to have a job that I feel so passionate about! In 2015 I completed my Early Childhood qualifications which allowed me to link my current teaching practice to theory. In 2016 I went on an 8 month overseas experience with my husband, travelling around the world. This was an amazing opportunity to experience a diverse range of cultures.

In my spare time I love to do anything that involves food. I enjoy testing out new recipes and trying to make food from a range of cultures. I like to keep fit by running around the gorgeous Wellington bays, taking a hike or going to the gym. When I was younger I did Ballroom and Latin American dancing, which I have decided to get back into this year.

I value the important role I have as an early childhood teacher, which acknowledges children as lifelong learners. I aim to develop meaningful relationships with both children and whānau as I believe this forms the basis of a quality teaching and learning environment.

I look forward to supporting and empowering your child to develop into confident and capable learners. 

Ginalyn Yumul

Kelburn Little School - (K2) Head Teacher
Kia ora. I am Ginalyn Yumul, you can call me Ms. Gina for short. I am originally from the Philippines. I have been in New Zealand since 2006. I have two big grown up children, Yasmin and Johnne. During my spare time, I enjoy tramping, gardening and surfing the net.
I have been an educator since 2001. I hold a Masters Degree in TESOL and English Teaching. I have been a qualified Early Childhood Educator since 2010. As an educator, I enjoy teaching literacy and numeracy in various ways. Enhancing children’s learning dispositions such as creativity, concentration and confidence is also essential in my teaching. 
I value positive relationships with the children, whānau and kaiako.  I believe that having a strong partnership with the family can make a big difference in teaching our younger children. 

Hanae Watanabe

Kelburn Little School (K1) - Parental Leave

Hello, my name is Hanae and I am thrilled to work with your children at Little School. Japan is my home country and my family still lives there, I came to New Zealand when I was 21 years old and fell in love with New Zealand culture, the people, nature and early childhood education.

Since having immigrated here in 2011, I lived in Auckland until this year when my husband Yoshi started working in Wellington. I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Child Welfare and studied Montessori education in Japan; I also gained a Postgraduate Diploma in Education at Auckland University to extend my knowledge of teaching.

Montessori education has always been my passion, and I have been mostly working with 2-5 year old children in Montessori environments. It will be a new journey for me to explore in a centre which has a different philosophy, I am sure it will be wonderful as I love continuously growing as a teacher. I see children as individuals and am willing to help a child to do things by themselves.

In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, traveling and playing the ukulele. I play squash some times as well. You will find me at any farmers market during the weekend.

I am looking forward to getting to know you and your children, which surely promises to bring with it many new experiences and challenges.

Katee Thomas

Kelburn Little School (K1) - Head Teacher

My name is Katee Thomas I am a fully registered early childhood teacher. I am originally from Dunedin where I completed a Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) at Otago University College of Education. After I graduated I came to Wellington and have made this my home for the last six years.

I have had a wide range of experiences both during my study and career, and have found that my passion for teaching lies in these experiences and what I learn from each of them. I have experience working with all tamariki under the age of six and have developed a love for the R.I.E philosophy. This centres my practice with young tamariki by building strong, respectful, enjoyable relationships with them and their whanau.

In my spare time I enjoy all things about food, cooking, eating and trying new things. I love to travel and spend time with my Wellington whanau as well as pop down to Dunedin to visit my whanau and friends. I’ve recently started to love gardening and while I’m very new at it, I’m enjoying the experience and learning more with each success and failure!

I look forward to meeting you, your tamaiti and whanau and learning how I can support, encourage and excite your tamaiti on their very special learning journey.

Daniele Coetzer

Kelburn Little School - (K2) Acting Head Teacher
I am from South Africa new to the beautiful city of Wellington. I graduated with a degree in Early childhood and foundation phase from The University of South Africa in 2017. I have been working with children since 2014 where I was an intern working with children ages 6-8. Teaching has been my passion since a little girl. I have a fur baby named Timone who we absolutely adore. I enjoy watching movies, going to markets, being on the beach and doing most outdoor activities. 
I am so excited to get to know you and your family.

Heather McQuillan

Kelburn Little School (K1) - Teacher
Kia ora,
I am Heather McQuillan. I am a mother to 3 daughters, 2 living in Wellington with my eldest still living in Christchurch. My youngest daughter and I moved from Christchurch in May 2014. 
I trained in primary school teaching in Christchurch, and then worked towards my qualification in Early Childhood Education once I moved to Wellington.  
I am fond of music, singing as well as playing the guitar and the flute. I am a big fan of most genres of movies, to the point I could be considered a geek! I enjoy reading a variety of books, historical and fiction. I like meeting new people and building friendships. I am involved in groups, and like to bake and cook.
Ngā mihi

Dominique Whisker

Kelburn Little School (K2) Teacher - Parental Leave cover

Hi, my name is Dominique. I am a resident of Wellington City and call this place home. I grew up here and spent my childhood on the Kāpiti coast. After graduating with a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) five years ago, I have had the experience of working in a community creche with children aged 1-5. There I was fortunate to witness the positive efforts on learning of respectful and nurturing relationships between children and their teachers. More recently, I have worked in a multicultural preschool where I gained valuable experience in collaborating with parents to foster children's ongoing development. I also learnt the responsibilities of stepping up as a leader to help support my colleagues in a more meaningful way. In joining the team at Kelburn Little School, I hope to continue adding to my skill base as I put into practice all I have learnt and expand my knowledge of relevant and ever-changing teaching strategies and philosophies. I look forward to the year ahead and getting to know all the children and parents better.

Churton Park Little School

Tatjana Manabe

Churton Park Little School - Head Teacher

Kia ora, my name is Tatjana.

I have been with Little School since 2009 – first at Kelburn, then Churton Park. I have a Diploma in Primary School Education but found my passion in teaching young children so in 2012 I gained a Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education from Massey University.

I grew up in Germany, in the beautiful Rhine valley with castles and vineyards around every river bend. In 2005 I caught the travel bug and decided to do a one year working holiday in New Zealand – the rest is history.

In 2014, my husband and I welcomed our son, who was followed by a little brother in 2018. Together they now command most of my free time – but if I have a spare moment, I enjoy spending it in my garden or just relaxing with a good book and a cup of coffee.

Keri-ann Fauchelle

Churton Park Little School - Assistant Head Teacher
Hi, my name is Keri-ann Fauchelle.
I started working for Little School in April 2010, after I completed my BEd (Tch) ECE at Victoria University. Previously I worked as an after school teacher and a relief teacher.
Wellington is my home town and I love it here. Activities that I love to do are reading, singing and camping. I am a member of Newlands Baptist Church where I am part of the music group and often sing on a Sunday morning. My husbands name is Michael, and my son’s name is Lucien. We love going camping together and celebrating special occasions together. 

Denise Lim

Churton Park Little School - Teacher
Hi, my name is Denise and I have been working at Little School since 2014. I graduated that year with a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) degree from Victoria University. I was born in Malaysia but have been in New Zealand for more than half of my life now!
I enjoy working with different ages of children and I am passionate about what I do. I feel that throughout my teaching years, the children have helped and continue to help me grow as a teacher which I truly appreciate. I also enjoy making meaningful relationships with parents as I feel that this is important to develop children’s growth. I am happy to have a centre where I am able speak in different languages such as English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian/Malay, and Sign Language. I am also currently learning Japanese and Korean.
In my spare time, I enjoy eating (especially desserts) and spending time with my husband, friends and my family. I also enjoy travelling overseas as it gives me the opportunity to learn about different cultures, and do some shopping and of course, eating!



Shermain Cayaba

Churton Park Little School - Teacher

Hi, my name is Shermain Cayaba. I moved from the Philippines 4 years ago. I started as a reliever for after school care at Churton Park and became a contractor for more than 2 years.

During these years, it gave me the opportunity to get to know the children better and build a rapport with their parents.

I love cooking, reading and listening to music in my spare time.



Ying Zhao

Churton Park Little School - Teacher
My name is Ying Zhao and I’m originally from China. My husband came to New Zealand first to study at Victoria University of Wellington for his PhD degree in 1993. 
One year later my daughter and I arrived at Wellington to join my husband. We have lived in Wellington for nearly 25 years. Now we live in Churton Park.
From 1995 to 2001, I gained Dip. TESL, Dip. Teaching of both Primary School and Early Childhood at Victoria University of Wellington.
Before I joined little School team, I worked at Queen Margaret College Preschool for 12 years. 
I am so happy to work at Churton Park Little School which is so close to my home. Working with young children is the most joyful time for my life.
I also have two granddaughters who visit me during the weekend.
In my spare time I enjoy walking and reading the Bible.  

Aggie Li

Churton Park Little School - Teacher
Kia ora, my name is Aggie Li. I am originally from China and have been living in New Zealand for 17 years. I have two young children, Jason and Jacqueline.
I am a trained and fully registered ECE teacher, and I graduated with a Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) in 2010 from Victoria University of Wellington. I also completed a Postgraduate Diploma of Business and Administration (Management) at Massey University and a Bachelor degree of BCA at Victoria.
I started working in the ECE sector in 2010. I really enjoy teaching in early childhood centres and working with young children has always been my passion. I believe each child is different and he/she will become the brightest star in the sky. I started as a reliever at Churton Park Little School in June 2018 and became a permanent teacher in January 2019.  I am looking forward to building strong reciprocal and respectful relationships with the tamariki and whānau at Churton Park Little School and helping to bring out the best in your child's learning journey.
In my spare time, I enjoy doing exercise, running, cooking and travelling. I live in Johnsonville and often go to the community play groups with my children in this area.

Khandallah Little School

Melinda Buenaventura-Verchez

Khandallah Little School - Head Teacher

Hi, I'm Melinda Buenaventura-Verchez from the Philippines.  I'm a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas where I earned the degree Bacehelor of Elementary Education major in Early Childhood Education.  I taught grades 1 and 2 in an International school in the Philippines.  Then before coming to New Zealand, I was a toddler teacher in a preschool for two years.

Aside from teaching,  I love spending time with my family and friends.  I also enjoy discovering new things through books and traveling. 

I'm excited to begin my new adventure here in New Zealand and continue my teaching profession with the children, families and the team of Khandallah Little School.

Caitlin Larkan

Khandallah Little School - Teacher
My name is Caitlin Larkan. I am from Durban, South Africa and have been living in New Zealand since December  2017.
I studied at the University of South Africa and completed a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Development.
I believe that I am a creative, fun, loving and enthusiastic teacher. I always put in 100% effort into what I do and will always put children first.
In my spare time I enjoy cooking and baking for friends and family. I enjoy travelling, and have been exploring my new home of New Zealand with my husband.
I did a 7-month maternity cover at KLS and loved every moment. During that time I was known as Miss Smith however I recently got married and have returned as Mrs Larkan.
I am so grateful that I now have a permanent position here at Khandallah Little School and look forward to being a member of the Little School family.

Geoffrey Richards

Khandallah Little School - Teacher
Kia ora koutou!
My name if Geof, and I am a fully certified ECE teacher at Khandallah Little School, helping all the tamariki through their wonderful learning journeys.
It is throughout my teaching I have brought my own interests of Art, Science, Physics, and Music, into new and innovative activities for tamariki. I also have a young daughter whom I was lucky enough to spend a year with at Playcentre as she was growing up, and so from there onwards my introduction to early childhood teaching had begun. 
At the core of my teaching methods is being an empathetic, enthusiastic, motivational, and supportive teacher. To nurture the desires and interests of the child, and support those around me to feel connected as one.
My personal philosophy on teaching children, is one of respect for the child and their culture. To listen and engage thoughtfully, to be responsive to their learning needs whilst supporting them to become independent learners with a sense of empowerment, self-awareness and achievement.
I believe in supporting an awareness of Te Tiriti o Waitangi for tamariki, to allow them to experience the regular use of Māori tikanga and te reo Māori in their everyday learning so that they may reach their fullest potential in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond.
So with great enthusiasm I am looking forward to meeting all of you and enjoying valuable and memorable experiences ahead for all.
Ka kite ano!
See you again soon!
Geof. (Mr Richards)

St Heliers Little School

Mubaraka Kabir

St Heliers Little School - Teacher
Kia ora and Hello, 
I am Mubaraka Begum, (but children call me: Mubakiya, Miss Baraka, Mumbaraka, Mbaraka etc.) - they get it right eventually!
I come from Sri Lanka. I have been living with my dad and sister in Hamilton for over three years, where I was studying Bachelor of Teaching in Early Childhood Education (ECE) at Wintec. I am looking forward to my graduation in March.
Rather than calling it my passion, it is also my philosophy that I always want to elevate the status of ECE as a career. I, therefore, wish to become not only a carer, but also a professional and a respectful teacher. I love research in ECE and I am always open to try and learn new things.
When I interact with children I make use of my quiet and playful nature to understand them where my height works in my favour to catch their attention. I value any language a child may bring with him or her and cherish the smile and the bond formed through a simple communication using the child’s native language- that is priceless!
I also enjoy gardening, writing, cooking, and reading or sleeping in when I have some free time. 
I value this opportunity from Little School to become a part of their teaching team at St Helier’s. I look forward to getting to know the children, their family and whānau at St Helier’s Little School.