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 Manager (Auckland)
Sue describes herself as an ‘ex-gifted kid’ and with three gifted children of her own, 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, she is very much a Gifted Education 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 Programme Manager, Sue oversees all aspects of NZCGE’s direct-to-student services.
Madelaine Armstrong-Willcocks Assistant 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!”
Michelle is our Office Administrator at the National Office in Lower Hutt. She joined the NZCGE Team in May 2018, bringing a wealth of previous office experience to the admin team. Michelle is married with two children and, with her husband being a secondary teacher, she has plenty of insight into the demands of the education world.
Lisa Horan Assistant Administration
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.
Adriane Bancroft AssistantAdministration
Adriane first came to NZCGE as a contractor, helping us with data entry in September 2017. She proved herself to be indispensable so joined our team as a part-time Office Administrator at National Office from the beginning of 2018. Adriane has a wealth of administration experience having spent many years in the UK in secretarial and personal assistant roles. Adriane’s work includes student referral administration, data entry, Gifted Aotearoa administration, assisting with events, student record management, staff support, and general just-in-time administration.
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.”
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 AysonMarketing & Communications Coordinator
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.
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.
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.
Anna McDonaldSpecialist Educator, MindPlusAuckland East
Susan Jackson Specialist Educator, MindPlusAuckland Central
Susan has worked in gifted education for over 15 years, teaching at the Gifted Education Centre prior to the establishment of NZCGE and her Specialist Teacher role at MindPlus. In addition to her teaching for NZCGE, Susan works at St Cuthbert’s College as the Specialist GATE Teacher in the Junior School. Her work in gifted education has also included tutoring in the Certificate of Effective Practice In Gifted Education and teaching programmes for gifted learners at an Auckland State primary school. She is the parent of a gifted child, so has experienced first-hand the joys and challenges of bringing up gifted individuals. Susan’s background in gifted education has shaped her into a versatile, creative and professional specialist. Her enduring aim is to offer her gifted students targeted expertise, genuine enthusiasm and individualised learning opportunities to help them reach their true potential.
Tracey WallerSpecialist Educator, MindPlusAuckland Central
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.
Brenda Thorington Regional Lead Teacher, MindPlusNorth Shore & Auckland
Brenda has worked in gifted education for 17 years and is a parent of two gifted sons. For 5 years she worked as a Specialist Teacher at Small Poppies and the Gifted Education Centre before the establishment of NZCGE. Prior to that she was Head of Department at a secondary school. For the last 12 years Brenda has been working with gifted students, their families and teachers within the State primary sector as a Specialist GATE Teacher and Coordinator for two Auckland primary schools. She was commissioned by Cognition and the Ministry of Education to write a series of science teaching resources for teachers of gifted children and co-wrote publications for giftEDnz on Early Years Education with Gifted Children: Best Practice, Transitions for Gifted Children and Parent/Teacher Communication. She is passionate and enthusiastic about gifted education, her students and their families, and loves creating challenging, exciting programmes within supportive, exploratory environments that encourage her students to value themselves, embrace their abilities, individuality and love for learning and creating.
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.
Briar SpanbroekSpecialist Educator, MindPlusRotorua
Briar is qualified and experienced as both a teacher and a nurse, bringing a broad range of knowledge and skills with her to MindPlus. She teaches both for NZCGE at MindPlus Rotorua and at a local primary school in a principal's release position. Outside of teaching, Briar is a keen singer and thespian who performs with Rotorua Musical Theatre.
Emma SweetmanRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlusHamilton
Currently on leave.
Vicki AdamRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlusHutt, Gifted Online
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, MindPlusHutt
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
Prior to the establishment of NZCGE, Sarah was part of the Gifted Kids team. Before joining Gifted Kids, Sarah ran programmes for able students at both Evans Bay Intermediate and Hutt Intermediate. She is a qualified Future Problem Solving coach and national evaluator and is trained in Philosophy for Children. She has also worked with educators, teaching about the latest research in education, embedding thinking tools in classes and advising on many aspects of classroom practice, including provision for gifted kids. She continues to work with teachers as part of our Consultancy. Sarah sets extremely high expectations for herself and her students, and provides a flexible and creative learning programme. She loves her work at NZCGE: “understanding, supporting and encouraging these kids is the best job I could have.” Sarah completed her Masters in Specialist Teaching (Gifted and Talented) in 2017 and took over the role of Regional Lead Teacher for Wellington Units in January 2018.
Melanie Rooy Lead Teacher MindPlusWellington West
Melanie is an experienced classroom teacher with a passion for teaching and learning. Her teaching experience has included inner-city schools and multi-cultural schools with over 30 different languages in both South Africa and New Zealand. Her teaching style has always been very inclusive, promoting a sense of belonging, and encouraging learners to embrace their differences and build on their strengths.
Melanie brings an energetic, positive approach coupled with the ability to anticipate needs or issues to her teaching and is excited to join the NZCGE team from Term 1 2020.
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.
Smruti PavlovRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlusChristchurch
Smruti joined NZCGE’s teaching staff mid-2016. Her journey in gifted education began over 13 years earlier 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. As well as teaching gifted students, Smruti sees another vital aspect of her role and mission as supporting and providing assistance to parents of gifted children. She feels great empathy for those who face the every day challenges and emotions of parenting and advocating for gifted and twice-exceptional children. Smruti has a strong interest in twice exceptionality and is completing her training as a SPELD tutor. She hopes to pursue postgraduate studies and research in to further assist twice-exceptional students and their whanau.In joining the team at NZCGE, Smruti feels that she has finally found her tribe and can't believe that she gets to work with “such diverse, intelligent and passionate people who all share the same dream, and who teach and share what they know with an open heart.”
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.
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.
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
Ashle did her teacher training in America and began teaching in 2007. She has always worked under the umbrella of special education, so she is particularly adept at motivating and engaging "non-traditional" learners. Ashle’s initial teaching qualification was in secondary education, but she has a master's degree in Special Education, and Ed.D. in Deaf Education.
While Ashle lived in America her experience with teaching was at a high school level. Since moving to New Zealand she has had the opportunity to work with children from new entrants through to high school. Ashle has also been able to get a bit of experience with early childhood education by doing some reliving at her children’s day care.
Ashle has two boys of her own, the oldest of whom has been attending Small Poppies since the start of 2017. This is beneficial to Ashle as she can be especially compassionate and empathetic with parents as she is walking this whole gifted "journey" alongside them.
Ashle is particularly passionate about getting young learners to tap into their social and emotional intelligence, as well as just finding what interests them and running with it.
Maree QuillRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlusTauranga
Maree is a highly experienced teacher who holds a Masters in Gifted Education from Flinders University. In addition to teaching in the regular classroom, her experience includes 20 years teaching a withdrawal programme for gifted students at Hamilton West School, parenting her gifted (now adult) son, and many years of involvement with gifted families through the Waikato Association for Gifted Children. Prior to teaching, Maree worked in banking and in draughting. Outside of teaching, Maree has a broad range of interests, including watercolour painting, philosophy, boating, tennis and the environment. Maree describes her greatest success as “seeing the students flourish and gain self-confidence and new skills.” Michelle is the inaugural teacher for the MindPlus Tauranga Unit, which opened in Term 4, 2019.
Michelle RobinsonRegional Lead Teacher, MindPlusTai Tokerau
Michelle joined us late 2019 as an experienced educator eager to work in the field of gifted education. She completed a Bachelor of Science at Otago University before moving to Japan to work in schools to assist English Language Teachers and also completed the Cambridge University Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults followed by a Graduate Diploma in Primary School Teaching at Waikato University. MIchelle has taught students from primary age through to secondary and spent a number of years supporting the diverse learning needs of students in her leadership role as a Learning Support Coordinator. Michelle is very excited to be able to deliver MindPlus in the Tai Tokerau region to give Northland students the opportunity to explore and develop their talents and passions and explore who they are as gifted individuals.
MindPlus Centres operate under a localised community funding model and deliver the NZCGE curriculum for MindPlus in its entirety. Like NZCGE staff these educators are also highly experienced specialists with varied prior backgrounds in and outside of the education realm.
enrich@ILT - Invercargil
Pakiki Kids - Dunedin
Connected Minds - Lincoln