NZCGE has a range of specialist staff working both in the national office, Lower Hutt, and around New Zealand. The management and administration team work towards meeting the overall goals of the charitable organisation as well as the programmes that are delivered to student, educators and families.
Deb Walker CEO
Deb began working in gifted education in 2002, firstly with Gifted Kids. She has held various roles over the years, including Lead Teacher, Associate Principal and now CEO. She is passionate about leading positive change and, as a result of this, has played an integral part in the development of the NZCGE Curriculum and our entry selection process for students, and the growth of the programme overall. She is avidly and actively committed to strength and sustainability for NZCGE and its programmes. Deb has a Masters of Education (hons) with a focus on gifted, through Massey University, a Graduate Diploma in Not-For-Profit Business Management (hons) from Unitec and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Digital and Collaborative Learning (MindLab/Unitec). She leads the Gifted Aotearoa Network of Expertise, a consortium of NZCGE, NZAGC and REACH Education and works closely with the Ministry of Education around the support of gifted learners. Although her CEO role is one of leadership, management and advocacy, working primarily with adults, she still jumps at the chance to work with our students, both present and alumni.
Anna MeuliConsultancy Manager
Anna joined Gifted Kids in 2007, having worked as a Gifted Education Advisor, Lecturer, Gifted and Talented Lead Teacher, and primary school educator. Her role as NZCGE’s Consultancy Manager has her managing and implementing services for the adults in the lives of gifted children. Outside of her work with NZCGE, Anna has contributed to Gifted Education in New Zealand through her role as a giftEDnz (The New Zealand Professional Association for Gifted Education) Board Member and the Te Toi Tupu Gifted and Talented Education Regional Coordinator and Facilitator for Central South. Anna holds a Bachelor of Education and a Master of Education Degree endorsed in special education(hons). Anna has played a key role as co-editor and co-writer of the NZCGE Curriculum and programme implementation handbooks, and in the development of our entry selection process. She is particularly interested in creativity, depth, complexity and emotional development. She is acutely aware of the needs of gifted students and loves making a difference to their lives and education experiences.
Sue Barriball Programme Support (Auckland)
Sue’s journey in gifted education has included parenting her own gifted children, post-graduate studies in gifted education, and over 15 years of gifted teaching experience and leadership roles at Gifted Kids as Associate Principal, the Gifted Education Centre as Director, and St Cuthbert’s College as the GATE Specialist. A trained secondary teacher who has taught students ageing from 6-60, Sue has also been a Head of Department, a tutor in the Certificate in Effective Practice in Gifted Education and a professional studies lecturer for pre-service secondary teachers and tertiary teachers. Her commitment to gifted education has extended beyond the classroom, with service as a Board member for giftEDnz (The New Zealand Professional Association for Gifted Education) and editor of their “giftEDnewz.” She is currently an administrator in the Gifted and Talented Teachers NZ Facebook group and provides just-in-time support for teachers through Gifted Aotearoa’s Waka Ama on behalf of NZCGE. Sue has been involved in the development of our entry selection process and, as co-editor and co-writer of the NZCGE Curriculum and programme implementation handbooks, she has played an essential part in the development of our programmes. In her role as our foundation Programme Manager, Sue oversaw all aspects of NZCGE’s direct-to-student services. She retired from the Programme Manager in mid-2020 and continues to provide valuable support to our CEO in her new role.
Madelaine Armstrong-Willcocks Programme Manager (Auckland)
Madelaine has taught children from Years 2-8 in the MindPlus and Gifted Online programmes and has gifted children of her own. Previously, she taught for Gifted Kids for five years. Her teaching in mainstream schools in Auckland and London for eight years developed her interest in students who sit “outside the norm.” During her teaching career, she has implemented Future Problem Solving in schools, taught at Bubble Dome, worked for both Massey and Auckland Universities and run her own consultancy firm providing tailored professional development in literacy teaching. She is passionate about gifted education, particularly the social and emotional aspect, and loves to “fuel intellectual excitement” in our students. A role model for continuous learning, Madelaine completed her second Masters degree, the Masters in Specialist Teaching (Gifted and Talented), in 2017. Madelaine describes her work with NZCGE as “exciting, rigorous and enabling … the best job I’ve ever had!” Madelaine took over the role of Programme Manager in July 2020.
Smruti PavlovAssistant Programme Manager (South)
Smruti joined NZCGE’s teaching staff mid-2016 as the Regional Lead Teacher for MindPlus Christchurch and in 2021 takes on the position of Assistant Programme Manager, based in Christchurch. Her journey in gifted education began in the early 2000s when she taught her first primary school class in New Zealand and a few years later she found herself parenting two gifted children! Prior to that, Smruti's passion was foreign languages and translation. She has a degree in French and Russian and a Master's degree in French on the translation of children's literature. She delights in bringing her love of languages to her students and enjoys seeing how gifted children thrive on the challenge and mental stimulation that acquiring a second or third language brings.
Smruti has a strong interest in twice and multi-exceptionalities and neurodiversity. She holds a SPELD New Zealand Practising Certificate and is currently undertaking post-graduate studies in psychology to further her understanding of autism and ADHD. Smruti feels most passionate about supporting her MindPlus students to understand and celebrate their uniqueness and to encourage them to follow their own curiosity, creativity and passions. Smruti loves working at NZCGE and feels grateful to have found a place where continuous learning is valued and supported and where colleagues share their experience and expertise through caring and authentic collaboration towards a shared vision.
Michelle Martin Office Manager
Lisa Horan Administration Assistant
Like the majority of our staff, Lisa works part-time but gives 100% to every task she undertakes. Lisa is based at the National Office and completes a range of administration activities to support all of our services. Lisa’s main role revolves around administration support for the Small Poppies and Gifted Online programmes and Entry Selection for the NZCGE Centres nationwide, however she is equally found answering the phone, organising the photocopier and grappling with the binder.
Sharon HillockFinance Officer
Sharon has had her own bookkeeping business for many years, specialising in working with charitable organisations – Sharon started working in gifted education in March 2011. Sharon has previously worked for Deloitte and WHK accounting firms. Her job involves overseeing NZCGE finances, preparing profit and loss reports and Board reports, along with managing payroll, donation requests and invoices. Sharon was attracted to working for NZCGE by the passion and dedication shown by the staff and the great work that the organisation does for gifted children. “Everyone is so great to work with and they are so focussed on what gifted kids need to achieve – the kids are amazing.”
Adrian BrancroftAdministration Assistant
Joy Woolett Fundraising Coordinator
Joy joined the team in May 2014 and is employed as our Grants Co-ordinator. She spends many hours educating and advocating on behalf of our extraordinary kids. She enjoys working in a job that energises her, reflects her own values and supports others to make a difference for our young people.
Veronica Ayson Marketing & CommunicationsCoordinator
Veronica joined the team in March 2020 and is employed as our Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator. Her main focus is to inform and educate whanau and our members on the range of products offered at the NZ Centre for Gifted Education. Veronica has a wealth of experience , is excited to be working in the education industry and looks forward to the challenge.
Ryan AbbottAssistant Programme Manager(North)
Ryan joined our team at the start of 2021 as an Assistant Programme Manager, based in Auckland. His academic career has included post-graduate studies in education, biological sciences and economic geography and he also holds a BA in psychology and a BSc in biological sciences. Ryan previously taught at Epsom Normal Primary School, where he was Technology Curriculum Leader. As a former One Day School student himself, Ryan is a strong proponent of the value of gifted education. Ryan very much enjoys working with gifted and twice exceptional students, stating that the “level of discourse possible, and the challenges of extending and catering the curriculum to these students, is exciting and rewarding.”
Dr Ann EasterConsultancy Manager (Starting in March)
Dr Ann Easter
PhD | MSpEd (First Class Honours) | BEd | DipTchg
Ann has a longstanding interest and commitment to the education and wellbeing of gifted children. She is an experienced primary school teacher, GATE coordinator, university lecturer, education researcher and facilitator. She has led national and regional professional development contracts for teachers of gifted learners on behalf of the Ministry of Education.
Ann has contributed to the wider field of gifted education in Aotearoa New Zealand as an inaugural board member of giftEDnz: The Professional Association for Gifted Education and was also a member of the Ministry Advisory Group for Gifted and Talented Students. She has written chapters for several texts in gifted education and presented numerous conference workshops, both in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally.
Ann holds a Master’s degree in special education and a PhD in gifted education. Her research interests include highly gifted students, academic acceleration, talent development, career pathways and early entrance to university. Her doctoral thesis (2019) investigated the lived experiences of young people who had been accelerated at school and entered university early in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In her role as consultancy manager for NZCGE, Ann is involved with coordinating and implementing a range of services to support principals/teachers and other professionals to develop appropriate educational opportunities to meet the identified needs of gifted learners. Ann is also a facilitator and mentor for Gifted Aotearoa, with particular responsibility for organising Waka Tiwai regional hui.
Lynley BallAssistant Programme Manager (Central)
Lynley originally hails from Invercargill and started her career in education as a secondary teacher of biology, science and mathematics. She became an advisor in Outdoor Education and morphed into the area of assessment, first with Wellington College of Education and then Learning Media. Lynley started working with gifted children at Rata Street in Naenae in 2013. In addition to being Assistant Programme Manager and her MindPlus classes, Lynley also teaches Gifted Online plus numeracy and literacy to adults and is an avid gardener. (She can wield a chainsaw with the best of them.) She fervently believes that learning is a life-long process which involves being curious, reflective, open to new experiences and a challenger of the status quo.
New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education staff are specialists in gifted education with a wealth and depth of experience and expertise. They come to us with a diverse range of backgrounds and specialisation and are united in their desire to provide quality and appropriate learning opportunities for young gifted New Zealanders.
Jenny BezuidenhoutSpecialist Educator, MindPlus North Shore
Jenny has over 30 years teaching experience in the primary, intermediate and secondary sectors. Her experience includes roles as a general classroom teacher, music and performing arts specialist, visual arts specialist, English specialist and home-schooling her own children at sea for several years. During her clinical studies as an arts therapist in 2012, her interest in the gifted population was ignited. Her research, which involved working with gifted individuals, helped her embrace the challenges of her own giftedness. Following her Masters studies, and feeling constricted in her mainstream education roles, Jenny was intent on uniting her multipotentialities with a more hoslitic approach to working with children in an education arena. A series of synchronistic events lead her down the path to Mindplus in 2015. “ My experience teaching Lorde (Ella Yellich- O’Connor) and watching her rise to fame highlighted for me the potential for greatness not yet manifest in gifted kids. I love the holistic MindPlus curriculum, the opportuntiy for professional expansion, the diverse individuals I get to work with, and the amazing team of passionate professionals who are my colleagues . This work is interesting, challenging and enriched with meaning and purpose.”
Jo AshcroftSpecialist Educator, MindPlus Auckland West
Jo joined The Gifted Kids Programme as a specialist teacher in 2010, after working as a primary school teacher in both her native United Kingdom and New Zealand for 17 years. The mother of two gifted children, she describes MindPlus as an extension of her dining table when the children were younger; ‘big questions, bigger answers and tonnes of emotional and social development.’ She left GKP to pursue her own passion and talents, setting up a dressmaking business and teaching sewing and pattern making to children, teens and adults, although she remained a regular visitor to MindPlus as a relief teacher. She is delighted to return to MindPlus in 2021.
Tracey WallerSpecialist Educator, MindPlusAuckland West
Tracey has been teaching for nearly 20 years in a variety of different environments and year groups, including a weekly gifted and talented programme in the UK, and has a breadth of experience. In addition, Tracey recently qualified as a SPELD tutor and has both skills and empathy in working with twice-exceptional learners. She came to MindPlus with very favourable recommendations from the SENCo at her previous school and from MindPlus students who she supported at that same school.
Susan Jackson Specialist Educator, MindPlusAuckland Central
Ryan Abbott Specialist Educator, MindPlusAuckland Central
Diana HaymanSpecialist Educator, MindPlusAuckland East
Diana juggles work at NZCGE's MindPlus with being mum to two gorgeous boys and a role as GATE teacher at a State school. She has been part of our teaching team since 2006 and prior to this was Deputy Principal at an Auckland intermediate school, with responsibility for gifted education within the school. She is skilled at providing a safe, calm, positive and challenging environment for gifted students and works hard to build a rapport with students and their families. Diana has a strong interest in individualised learning and has found a natural fit at NZCGE. She describes gifted education as her teaching path and enjoys being part of the NZCGE team, a passionate and intelligent group of people who believe in our children.
Belinda CameronRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlusTauranga
Belinda Cameron is our new regional lead teacher in Tauranga and comes to us with 15 years of teaching experience both in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, including specialist gifted education. She has the ability to implement effective and exciting learning programmes to children with varied learning styles
Sue Bufton Regional Lead Teacher, MindPlusRotorua
Sue has a lifelong passion for gifted education, sparked by her own frustrations as a gifted kid and as a parent of three gifted children. Her passion to specialise in gifted education grew from her interest in extending and challenging gifted students in her mainstream classes. She has completed a post-graduate gifted education paper through Massey University and the Certificate in Effective Practice in Gifted Education and contributes her knowledge and skills as part of the NZCGE curriculum writing team. Sue loves being involved in a programme that supports students’ personal and academic growth and that she and her own children would have loved. “It all really comes down to the fact that we get to work with kids who love to learn, think, question, create and push themselves, and we get to think of ways to help them do exactly that!” Sue is also a member of our Consultancy team.
Jo JenkinsSpecialist Educator, MindPlus Rotorua
Jo trained through Canterbury College of education in 1999.She has taught at Malfroy School in Rotorua from 2001 until 2019, and has worked in the Senior School for the past 7 years and was the team leader of the senior team.
Jo was also the Gifted and Talented coordinator and has been involved with Sue Bufton and the wonderful Gifted Education programme for many years in Rotorua.
Sue is passionate about developing lifelong learners and is thrilled to be part of the NZCGE team.
Sharon UdySpecialist Educator, MindPlus Manawatu (Palmerston North)
Sharon grew up in Palmerston North and has recently returned after many years away. She has been an educator for over 15 years, many of those years in Montessori schools where she was excited about supporting the talents and passions of each child. Sharon is a lifelong learner herself, currently working on her reo Māori and learning guitar. She has a range of interests including playing several sports, gardening and permaculture, handcrafts and music. Sharon is passionate about supporting children's commitment to lifelong learning and believes social and emotional development are equally as important as reaching academic goals. She is thrilled to be part of the team at MindPlus and is looking forward to building strong relationships with learners and their whānau.
Vicki AdamRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlus,Lower Hutt
Vicki joined Gifted Kids in 2010, having led the Venture Class, a gifted and talent programme at her previous school, for eight years. She has written challenges for BP Technology Challenges and has taught thinking skills, school-wide. Continuing through to MindPlus in 2015, and also leading Gifted Online in 2019, Vicki describes teaching her students as “a box of chocolates” – every day is different. Teaching philosophy at MindPlus is a highlight of her teaching day - enabling students to investigate the deeper questions and to use their insightful understandings to delve and discuss issues from multiple perspectives. Her passion for teaching science, maths, drama, the arts, language and music are an asset to our Talent Development programme.
Lynley BallSpecialist Educator, MindPlus,Lower Hutt
Lynley originally hails from Invercargill and started her career in education as a secondary teacher of biology, science and mathematics. She became an advisor in Outdoor Education and morphed into the area of assessment, first with Wellington College of Education and then Learning Media. Lynley started working with gifted children at Rata Street in Naenae in 2013. In addition to her MindPlus classes, Lynley also teaches Gifted Online plus numeracy and literacy to adults and is an avid gardener. (She can wield a chainsaw with the best of them.) She fervently believes that learning is a life-long process which involves being curious, reflective, open to new experiences and a challenger of the status quo.
Sarah KirbyRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlusWellington South
Sarah Kirby has worked as a gifted specialist for more than a decade, with the New Zealand Centre of Gifted Education. Her special interests include: programmes for gifted writers, philosophy for children, Māori and Pasifika giftedness, gifted girls and the social and emotional needs of gifted learners. Sarah completed a Masters degree (endorsed gifted and talented) in 2018 and is currently the Regional Lead Teacher for the MindPlus programme in Wellington and a Consultant for NZCGE.
Carol PalmerLead Teacher, MindPlusWellington West
Rebekah AuSpecialist Educator, MindPlusChristchurch
Rebekah has a background as a Primary school teacher, a Secondary Mathematics teacher and a Speech and Drama Tutor. Mathematics was always her passion growing up and was one of her University Majors. Rebekah also has an Honours degree in Psychology and is particularly interested in cognitive psychology, especially memory and learning. As a teacher, Rebekah found herself drawn towards working with gifted children. She has worked with extension groups in Mathematics and Writing and really enjoys helping students to think more deeply and enhance their skills. While training as a Specialist Educator, Rebekah has come to recognise characteristics of giftedness in her own family members, and to bring this first-hand experience to the Mindplus classroom.
Megan FluteySpecialist Educator, MindPlusChristchurch
Karen Cox Lead Teacher, MindPlusLincoln
We welcomed Karen to our teaching team in 2021. Based at MindPlus Lincoln, Karen has 20 years’ teaching experience, a strong skill set in inquiry and design processes, and teaching strengths in literacy, technology and visual art. Her experience as a SENCo gives her particular insight into the difficulties children and parents can face in the school system. Karen believes strongly in student agency, enabling learners to direct their learning and take responsibility for their achievements – a philosophy which fits perfectly with the MindPlus goal of developing self-direction in learners.
Kathryn RennerSpecialist Educator, MindPlusLincoln
Kathryn has joined MindPlus Lincoln in 2021 and also works part-time as an Enrichment and Release teacher at a Christchurch school. She has a wealth of teaching experience and has been a Deputy Principal. Kathryn brings with her a passion for Creativity, Literacy and Visual Arts. Developing the “whole child” and encouraging students to unlock their potential, are strong beliefs. She enjoys making learning fun and hands-on. Personal interests include horticulture, jogging and pottering away on a variety of arts and craft projects.
Mel SimonsRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlusMid-Canterbury
Nicky LewisSpecialist Educator, MindPlusMid-Canterbury
Sue LuusRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlusWakatipu
Sue Luus is the Regional Lead Teacher of MindPlus Wakatipu. She has worked exclusively in gifted education for over 30 years and has two adult gifted children. Sue joined NZCGE in January 2018 after returning from Australia to live in Central Otago. She also worked for Gifted Kids, one of our founding organisations, for several years. Her passion for working with gifted children was ignited by a young gifted child who was severely bullied at school. This inspired a determination to make a difference for gifted children in schools and sparked her continued studies in gifted education, culminating with a double Master of Education (Gifted Education) and a Diploma in Special Education.As well as teaching gifted students, Sue is deeply aware of her role to support parents of gifted children, particularly in the social and emotional aspects of giftedness. In 2008, she was appointed the Australian liaison for SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted). Sue has delivered workshops for GERRIC’s school vacation programs (University of New South Wales) and Young Scholars (Brisbane), presented nationally and internationally, tutored in Inclusive Education at Queensland University of Technology and she continues to work as a marker for post graduate teaching degrees in inclusion for Griffith University.In returning to the NZCGE team, Sue believes that she is “home”. She is inspired daily, not only by the children she teaches but by the passionate people who she works with, who share their expertise so generously and touch the lives of so many children and their parents.
Jane McLeodSpecialist Educator, MindPlusWakatipu
Jane has a Masters in Education and has worked as an Early Years teacher for ten years. Jane has a Diploma in Montessori ECE and uses the Montessori approach to support her additional work for Te Kura with Learners with Diverse Needs.Her interest in Gifted Education came about from raising three gifted children and supporting them from pre-school to university. Having worked as a support teacher for Mindplus in 2019, Jane is relishing the opportunity to guide a classroom of younger children on their educational journey.
Sue BreenLead Teacher, Small PoppiesChristchurch
Sue is the Lead Teacher of Small Poppies, which came under the umbrella of NZCGE in 2014. She has been teaching for over 40 years, involved in gifted education for over 30 years and has two gifted children, now fully grown with their own children. Since 1996 she has worked fulltime in gifted education, primarily teaching the Small Poppies programme. Sue is a life member of both the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children (NZAGC) and Explorers, the Auckland Branch of NZAGC, has served as NZAGC National President, edited both “Tall Poppies” and “Apex”, and organized and/or presented at numerous workshops and conferences for teachers, children and parents. She was a member of the Writing Team for the Development Band of the Mathematics Curriculum Statement and coordinator of a writing team for “Supporting Scientifically Talented Students.” As Assistant Director of Tamaki Education Centre in the early 90s, she initiated subsidised programmes for gifted children from local low decile schools. Sue is a former member of the Boards of giftEDnz and the Gifted Education Centre (GEC), and was director of GEC prior to the merger of GEC and Gifted Kids. She has a special interest in creative writing, maths, science and technology, and is passionate about her role working with our young gifted children.
Ashle ArmstrongSpecialist Educator, Small PoppiesAuckland
TBCSpecialist Educator, Small PoppiesTBC
Vicki AdamLead Teacher, Gifted Online
Lynley BallGifted Online
Jo DeanGifted Education Consultant
Lizzie WilsonGifted Education Consultant
Elizabeth Wilson is a strength-based educator driven by educational equity for neurodiverse learners. She believes in want an education system where all children and young people can take part in education and can learn and achieve, whatever their needs or differences.
Elizabeth completed her Master of Specialist Teaching focusing on multi-sensory learning strategies. Elizabeth works to empower educators to be specialists within their classrooms and is Gifted Aotearoa facilitator and Education Consultant for the New Zealand Centre of Gifted Education (NZCGE) and elected Board member for GiftEDnz. Her greatest learning to date has been the impact she can make for kiwi kids at a governance level. This led her to the Gifted Advisory Group for the Ministry of Education where she contributed to The Learning Support Action Plan 2019 - 2025 which sets out priority actions that “will make the most difference, to ensure that children and young people get the right support, at the right time”.
Currently, she is the Director of Gifted & Talented at Shirley Boys’ High School in Christchurch which can be described as “a lot of testosterone in a small space”. Elizabeth is a passionate advocate for neurodiversity believing that we need different thinking in order to meet the challenges of a world changing at an exponential rate.