Meet the Curriculum Leads


Features a group of curriculum leads throughout Aotearoa,

who answer a number of spontaneous and fun questions relating

to the future of education in Aotearoa.

Meet the Curriculum Leads and hear their stories.

Let’s see what's in here.



Growing up what kind of learner were you?

I was the goody good always wanting to please the teacher.

Was there a strong teacher role model that had a positive

influence on your learning or life?

Yeah, I had a teacher in college actually and I think she just made

the students feel really seen and like what we thought mattered.

She had love, that’s aroha,

tui, ‘amanaki.

Share with us your most challenging or funniest moment

in your teaching environment.

I actually do recall quite a funny story which was around a

group of children that were really interested in fishing.

And this child said, I want to know how you catch the chips.


Engari kn ngā kōrero pai rawa atu ko ngā wā ka whāki mai

The funniest ones were the times the children


ngā tamariki e hapū ana o rātou māmā.

told me their mother is pregnant.

Ka mōhio te kaiako ki ngā mea katoa

Teachers know everything.

Hei aha te karere o te ao.

No need for world news.

As a curriculum lead what does working

with teachers and kaiako mean?

I think it'd be great if we can help teachers explore their

passions and get them to really connect on a personal level

with the passions and interests of the

learners that are in their classroom.

He aha e whakahirahira nei te marau-ā-kura ki ngā ākonga?

Why is the local curriculum or marau-ā-kura important for learners?

Ka hoki au ki tērā whakataukī

I go back to that saying that the

ko te tamaiti te pūtake o te kaupapa.

child is at the centre of everything.

So the child is the centre of everything and I think how can

you not have a curriculum that connects to them.

You know, in early childhood we talk about the tamariki

coming in and knowing that they have a place here,

that they have a strong sense of belonging.

All those things that they bring with them,

their story, is part of that learning.

Develop students that have a sense of connection,

strong relationships, where their identity, language and

culture is really enhanced and it’s through that that we’re

going to have students with really enhanced wellbeing.

It's the biggest endorsement we can give

to our children isn't it, their language,

their culture, their identity.




Riripeti Totoro

Te Tai Tokerau

Riripeti TotoroKo ahau he uri nō Ngapuhi, Te Mahurehure, Ngāti Wai me Te Kapotai.  Ko Riripeti Totoro tōku ingoa. I was raised and educated in Whangarei.  After school, I moved to Auckland to attending the Auckland Teachers’ Training College and The University of Auckland.  I spent my early teaching years at Kowhai Intermediate.  Whilst there, I moved from mainstream classes, to a reo rua and then to rūmaki reo.  One of my most valuable learning opportunities during these years was to attend He Whakapiki i Te Reo under the tutelage of Rahera Shortland and Evelyn Tobin.  My husband and I returned to Whangarei to raise our children closer to their marae, hapū and whanau in 2002.  My teaching in Whangarei included Primary, Intermediate and Secondary.  I was a Lead Facilitator in the Phase 5 Te Kotahitanga project where I developed a passion for pedagogy and curriculum.  I became a Principal of a small urban school in 2016 where I worked alongside the community, whanau, teachers and Board of Trustees to develop a localised curriculum which prioritised inclusion and restorative pastoral care.  It is the culmination of these experiences that led me to the role of Curriculum Lead.  I look forward to working alongside teachers to support the development of localised teaching and learning opportunities that are inclusive of identity, language, and wellbeing.  Nō reira, ko te manu ka kai I te miro, nōnā te ngahere.  Ko te manu ka kai I te mātauranga, nōnā te ao.


TeRiini Henare


TeRiini HenareTēnā koutou katoa, he uri tēnei nō Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa me Ngāpuhi. I have given myself to the early learning sector for 15 years. Initially working as an Education support worker supporting pēpi and tamariki with special needs into ece. I have worked in privately owned services, umbrella organisations and Kōhanga reo which is where my formal learning has come from. I studied at Waikato university and have a degree in Te Reo Maori and a post grad in ECE education. My informal learnings have come through my tupuna and the many experiences I have had growing up Māori and being a part of an amazingly supportive large whānau. From teaching I took up a role with MOE as a Senior ECE adviser here in the North, and then most recently spent 9 months with the curriculum design team working on the pilot programme Te Kawa Matakura also known as Tauranga Kōtuku Rerenga Tahi here in Te Taitokerau, where we were successful in gaining level 5 NZQA accreditation. I then spent just under a year working as a Special Ed adviser again for MOE before moving into this role as Curriculum Lead. All whilst also raising 3 amazing tamariki with my husband Joe. I love the fact that our sector can reach out and ask for support re: curriculum and we respond. From supporting schools with designing their local curriculum, supporting iwi, hapu, marae and whanau with engaging in their kura/schools/ece and how and what that looks like, unpacking resources, looking into all curricula documents, specific online tools, face to face workshopping of any specific Kaupapa ie: ANZH and Te Takanga o te wā and so much more. This role is refreshing, exciting, positive, and responsive to people and that’s what I am enjoying at the moment.


Shawn Cooper

Tāmaki Makaurau

Shawn CooperKia ora koutou, ko Shawn Cooper tōku ingoa. I am the Senior Curriculum Lead (Secondary) based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

Equity and agency have guided my personal and professional journey and informed my teaching, professional inquiry and community involvement. Working across primary, secondary and tertiary settings in Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand, I trust my varied experience in Science Education and Student Leadership Development will be useful in helping others implement rich, responsive teaching and learning programmes. It is a privilege to be in a position to be a “curriculum activator” to foster improved wellbeing outcomes for our ākonga and our communities.


Carmel Flynn

Tāmaki Makaurau

Carmel FlynnAfter nearly two decades of teaching in, and leading, kindergarten teams, I began my work with the Ministry of Education in July 2019 as a Senior Education Adviser, Auckland Central Schools. Working with school communities added depth and breadth to my knowledge, understanding and respect for the education sector. The role of a Curriculum Lead is part of a new and innovative function, one which is in tune with who I am as an education professional. I am passionate about curriculum, reform and change, embracing Te Tiriti o Waitangi and advocating for strengthening wellbeing through curriculum design and delivery. By nature of inquiry, I am a curriculum activator and influencer. I am a leader who co-constructs and co-designs authentic curricular implementation within communities of learners.


Ma’ata Baranyi-Heimuli

Tāmaki Makaurau

Maata Baranyi HeimuliBefore joining the Ministry in January 2021, I had 22 years of primary teaching experience in state schools and Catholic schools in central Auckland including being a team leader, a cultural leader, and a lead teacher. I am passionate about curriculum, reform, and change, embracing Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and advocating for strengthening wellbeing through curriculum design and delivery. In the Curriculum Lead role, I look forward to helping kaiako shape their local curriculum in a way that strengthens the wellbeing of all learners. I am determined to guide kaiako through open learning conversations that will help develop key competencies and the cultural capabilities of all learners in our diverse city of Tāmaki Makaurau. With my skills and knowledge of the NZ curriculum, I can support schools to explore how effective curriculum delivery impacts learners’ wellbeing holistically, culturally, mentally, and physically. I am fervent about improving the learning of all tamariki. One of my strengths is the ability to embed a Pacific lens to curriculum delivery.


It is always important to lead by example, one must serve to lead.


Tony Halalilo

Tāmaki Makaurau

Tony HalaliloIt was the term “wellbeing” that led me to apply for the position of Curriculum Lead. I was keen to know more about what the Ministry felt worked in this area, because for me, this covered things like identity, cultural, learning, and physical disability, and sustainable education in Aotearoa. I had worked in the Wellbeing space for 5-years at The University of Auckland and felt I could be more effective supporting change in the sector if I helped the Ministry understand the size and breadth of the meaning of Wellbeing.

The most important aspect of our role is that we work to disseminate the Eurocentricity of our education system that has maintained inequitable outcomes for our ākonga. I can help kaiako indigenise and create an education system that fits our geographical location in the Pacific, and meets the needs for learners, irrespective of their gender, their culture, and their abilities. As a Curriculum Lead, we promote the love of learning, and create facilities that promote whole community learning, that helps us eliminate undertones of racism and prejudice, through more accurate lens of learning, one that considers all voice and perspective, not solely a Western one. 


TeRina Marikena

Tāmaki Makaurau

TeRina MarikenaNgā mihi maioha ki a koutou katoa, he uri tēnei no Ngāti Porou, Tūhoe, Tūwharetoa anō hoki.

I pakeke mai ahau i raro i te āhuru mōwai o Te Aho Matua, he raukura ahau no Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu ki Ngāti Porou hoki.

Kua tekau tau ahau e whakaako ana i roto ngā haumarutanga o te ao Māori, kura tuatahi mai, whare wānanga mai, i au e pakeke mai nei kotahi noa te aronga nui ko te ao Māori tērā, i runga anō i te mōhio ki ngā huanui o te ao Māori ki te tangata ahakoa ko wai. Ahakoa te kawenga mahi e mahi nei au, ko te oranga o te ao Māori me ōna reka katoa kei te mātamua o ngā whakaaro, he Māori tuatahi ahau, ao pō, pō ao. E whakapono ana ahau he mana nui tō te mātauranga, hei reira ngā aheinga kia panoni te oranga o te tangata, ā, kia whai oranga nui te apōpō o Aotearoa. Nōku te whiwhi, nōku te maringanui i tēnei tūnga mahi.

Hei whakakapi ake i ngā kōrero anei tetahi rotarota e whakaauha nei i oku manako i roto i tēnei o ngā tūnga mahi:

Ka whakaweawe ana koe i te oranga o tētahi, kāore e whai panga ki a ia anake, engari kei te whai panga hoki ki te hunga nāna i whakaaweawe i tōna oranga katoa.

Ahakoa he iti te mahi, he pounamu te mahi.

Kia mārangaranga, mā tērā e pari anō ai te tai.

I grew up under the haven of Te Aho Matua. I am a graduate of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi, and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu ki Ngāti Porou.

I have been fortunate to teach for ten years within te ao Māori within primary and whare wānanga settings, whilst growing up my focus has always been for the betterment of Māori, knowing the benefits it has for all people no matter where they come from. No matter my job title my passion always remains with Māori and all the great attributes it holds. I am Māori first always, therefor I work for my people. I believe education holds great importance; it changes lives for the better. I am humbled and grateful to have an opportunity to be a part of this new role, helping shape a better tomorrow for Aotearoa.

I would like to share a poem that sums up my goals and aspirations within this job:


When you create a difference in someone’s life, you not only impact their life, you impact everyone influenced by them throughout their entire lifetime.

No act is ever too small.

One by one, this is how to make an ocean rise.


Renu Sikka

Tāmaki Makaurau

Renu SikkaSat Sri Akal! Kia ora koutou, ko Renu tōku ingoa.

My name is Renu Sikka and I have been working at the Ministry of Education for the past one year and two months as a Curriculum Lead.  Prior to being a Curriculum Lead at the Ministry of Education, I  have been in various Senior Leadership roles as well as being a Resource Teacher Learning & Behaviour (RTLB), John Hattie Visible Learning Impact Coach for change management within schools, Mathematics and Science Curriculum Lead, Māori Achieving Success as Māori (MASAM) within school Kahui Ako Lead role, Positive Behaviour for Learning Lead (PB4L), Associate Teacher, Coach and Mentor for provisional and beginning teachers, both at Primary and Intermediate schools.

I bring with me 20 years of experience of working with various socio-economic and cultural settings in areas of local curriculum development, culturally responsive & sustaining teaching practices, evaluation of teacher impact, digital learning, and leading and coaching collaborative inquiry within the teams. 

I am passionate about ensuring equitable, accessible education for all and strongly believe in rejoicing and celebrating cultural diversity through developing an appreciation of the importance of culturally sensitive approach to our New Zealand Curriculum. Culture is the social and moral fibre that unites a community and makes it unique.

In my role as a Curriculum Lead, I actively seek to form solid learning networks with Primary & Intermediate schools and local communities to support kaiako and school leaders to design and extend learning experiences for ākonga beyond the school walls – as well as to ensure all ākonga experience a rich and responsive localised curriculum which is not only innovative, inclusive, diverse, future-focused using digital technologies but also leads to a positive well-being as an outcome. 

Having been recognised for my contribution to the wider communities and education sector, with the National Excellence in Teaching (ASG NEiTA) award in 2019, I believe for me the most important aspect of the role is Whakawhanaungatanga - putting relationships first and being inclusive of kaiako and all contributing stakeholders – whānau, marae, hapū, iwi and the local community.  I feel quite privileged to be in this role at the Ministry of Education as part of this amazing Curriculum Leads team and be able to and make a difference through a refreshed curriculum as a key driver for a change within the wider community.

I am passionate about learning and am currently studying towards my doctorate at AUT with a focus on -Teaching practices when working with culturally diverse students in an online learning environment.

Ka kite


Daisy Zuo

Tāmaki Makaurau

Daisy ZuoTēnā koutou katoa!大家好! I grew up in China and started my journey in the early learning sector in 2003. My early teaching and leadership years at Centre level offered me valuable opportunities to develop my passion for curriculum design and delivery that strengthens children’s sense of belonging, builds resilience and enhances school readiness.

I have had the privilege to work with, and to draw on the expertise of some amazing centre leaders and school leaders, who also inspired me to further my learning and pursue a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. I’m passionate about facilitating curriculum design that enables authentic connection with whānau, and strengthens cultural capabilities of the kaiako to ensure the learning experiences for our diverse learners are relevant to them, their whānau and the community they live in. Another area of expertise I bring to this role is providing meaningful support for kaiako and Centre leaders that improves team cohesion and strengthens the effectiveness of teaching.

I feel privileged to be in a position where I can help to foster the quality of learning, improve equity and inclusion in our education system, and enhance the wellbeing of our ākonga, kaiako and our communities.


Alison Fowkes

Tāmaki Makaurau

Alison FowkesKo Alison tōku ingoa. I joined the Ministry of Education Mangawhau office in July 2021. Prior to joining the Curriculum Lead Team, I worked as HOD Technology and have been teaching in the secondary sector since migrating to New Zealand in 2004. I saw the Curriculum Lead position as an opportunity for me to put my qualifications and years of teaching experience to use in a way that has a broader reach. My lived experience of growing up in a country with huge disparity, I observed the impact this has on communities and societies health and wellbeing. I am particularly interested in being part of the changes in education that is actively working towards reducing inequity. My educational interest has always been curriculum, and the position of Curriculum Lead has facilitated merging areas of educational interest and passion for equity.

The expertise I bring to the Curriculum Lead role includes 25 years of classroom teaching and middle management experience and qualifications. In my home country I taught at 8 secondary schools in Cape Town, South Africa, working as a long-term reliever, teacher and HOD. I then worked as a facilitator contracted by the University of the Western Cape and the Department of Education, retraining teachers as part of a new curriculum reforming Apartheid Education. Curriculum Leads actively bridge the gap between educational philosophy, policy documents and classroom practice by supporting Kaiako to do what they do best.


Te Kaihou Ngarotata

Tāmaki Makaurau


Latisha Kelly


Latisha KellyKia ora, Kia orana, Talofa lava, Greetings

My name is Latisha (Tish) Kelly I have been working at the Ministry of Education for the last four months as a Curriculum Lead.  Prior to being a Curriculum Lead, I taught Business Studies and Visual Arts as well as being a Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) for 19.5 years at the high schools in Tokoroa. My continual motivation while teaching in Tokoroa was equitable outcomes for all learners, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or special learning circumstance.  Great curriculum is a driver for change in every community.  A rich curriculum is one that learners can see themselves in, leads to increased learner engagement, attendance, and well-being. It is this passion for change, through great curriculum design, I bring with me to my role as Curriculum Lead.  


Leah Steens


Leah Steens

Tēnā koutou katoa – he uri ahau no Tūhoe me Hōrana. I am privileged to have been born into a whānau where two worlds meet. I have been a teacher and leader within the ECE sector for 35 years prior to coming to the Ministry of Education two years ago. My passion is our curriculum – Te Whāriki and ensuring that it is delivered within our sector as it was intended. I am here to support and work alongside our ECE services, teachers, governance and management groups who are willing to create authentic change within their practices for tamariki, whānau communities, hapu and iwi.


Nada Harpur


Nada HarpurPrevious to working at the Ministry of Education I worked in a Primary school in a town called Tokoroa. Tokoroa is a culturally rich community filled with people from all walks of life. I have had the privilege of working with children as a kaiako ranging in age from 5 to 11 years old, each age group with their own unique way of learning. I became a Curriculum Lead because I am a passionate advocate for well-designed curriculum to meet the needs of ākonga, giving effect to te Tiriti o Waitangi and our ākonga and whānau māori. I wanted to contribute to the role out of the refreshed curriculum for the betterment of our future generations and to support those working in our schools who will be implementing it.


Nicole Young

Bay of Plenty – Waiariki

Nicole Young Tēnā koutou, Ko Nicole Young toku ingoa, nō Pāpāmoa ahau.

I am a Curriculum Lead|Kaihautū Marautanga for Bay of Plenty|Waiariki with expertise in Early Childhood Education|Te Whāraki. I began my teaching and leadership career over 20 years ago, mainly managing, and leading Early Learning services, Kaiako and kaimahi. I had a short period with adult teaching at Toi Ohomai before being a part of Kāhui Ako, in its early establishment. Although my studies in Master of Educational Leadership empowered my passion for living and evolving curriculum design, it has been my relationships and experiences along the way that continue my passion and drive for positive curriculum design. I joined the Ministry of Education as Senior Education Advisor in August 2017 and more recently, changed over to my Curriculum Lead position, March 2021. This journey has enabled me to commit and actively support Kaiako, kaimahi and ākonga through the development/design of their Localised Curriculum|Marau ā-Kura. I look forward to further supporting places of learning to have an inclusive curriculum that incorporates the past, present, and future of learning, and fosters a sense of belonging to heritage and culture.


Tāmara Simpkins

Bay of Plenty – Waiariki

Tamara SimpkinsMauri ora ki a koutou
Ko Tiheia me Makatiti ngā maunga
Ko Te Awahou te awa, Ko Okataina te roto
Ko Tarimano me Waikōhatu ngā marae
Ko Ngāti Rangiwewehi me Ngāti Tarāwhai ngā iwi
Ko Te Arawa te waka
Ko Tāmara Simpkins ahau

Kua 20 tau ahau e mahi ana ki ngā karaehe rūmaki i roto i te horopaki o ngā kura auraki.  Ko ētahi o aku haepapa he Kaiako o te puna nohinohi (tau 0) tae atu ki ngā tuākana (tau 6) o te kura tuatahi. I whai tūnga hoki ahau hei tūmuaki tuarua hei pou tautoko hoki i ngā kura e noho tahi ana i raro i te maru o te Kāhui Ako.  Ko tētahi o ngā tino whāinga i a au i te kura, kia whakamāori ake i ngā Kaupapa arā he ako i ngā hītori me ngā korero tuku iho kia whai mana ai ngā korero ā iwi ki roto i te marautanga o te kura. Ko te whāinga o te mahi kaihautū marautanga he tautoko he awhi he ārahi i ngā Kaiako, ngā tūmuaki, ngā poari rānei ki te wetewete i ngā kaupapa hōu e hāngai ana ki te whakahōutanga o Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.


Hirāni Manuel

Bay of Plenty – Waiariki


Nui Beamsley

Hawke’s Bay, Tairawhiti

Nui BeamsleyTaku hei piripiri, taku hei mokimoki, taku hei tāwhiri,
Taku kati taramea, tihei māuri ora.
He uri tēnei nō Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa me Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi ,ā, ko Arohanui Beamsley tōku ingoa.

I joined the Ministry of Education in 2017 as an Early Learning Education Advisor, following 16 years in Te Kōhanga Reo movement. I applied for the Curriculum Lead role as I was interested in moving into a role that focuses on curriculum development. If I could best describe the role, it would be “Ko tou rourou, ko taku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi”.


Ra Hansen

Hawke’s Bay, Tairawhiti

Ra HansenI came to Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga, from the position of Deputy Principal and SENCo of a great semi-rural coastal school, for the opportunity to focus on improving equity across education. Prior to Haumoana I was Assistant Principal and SENCo at an urban intermediate school. I have 25 years’ experience in education in both Aotearoa and the UK as a kaiako, board member and parent, leading teams developing local curriculum and collaborative pedagogies with a focus on inclusion for all ākonga. In 2014 I completed a post graduate diploma in education on a Teachers Council Study Grant to focus on digital learning.


Melanie Hagan

Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu

Melanie HaganKia ora, ko Mel tōku ingoa. I joined the ministry in February 2021. I support the Taranaki|Whanganui|Manawatu region, based in the Whanganui office. I have over 20 years’ experience in the education sector, mainly teaching and leading in primary schools within Manawatū. It is a privilege supporting schools to design, implement and deliver quality (rich, exciting, engaging, and relevant) learning experiences for our learners which reflect their culture, identity, language, interests and whānau aspirations. It is also an exciting time in education to be focused on our curriculum.

Ngā mihi.


Hilarie Nicoll

Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu

Hilarie NicollI have been employed in teaching and leadership roles within education for the past 38 years, most of my career has been as a professional leader in early learning and as a professional development facilitator with Massey University. I joined the Ministry of Education in 2018 and have been employed as a Curriculum Lead since the beginning of 2021. I am currently enjoying working with a range of centres to provide advice and guidance regarding their own unique curriculum design process as well as engaging in conversations to strengthen the implementation of curriculum support documents. I am passionate about ensuring Te Whāriki and local curriculum development is informing the decisions to support improving learning outcomes for all tamariki. I believe that genuine connections with whānau and the community as contributing partners involved in decision making about learning can only result in affirming a child’s culture, language, identity and therefore supporting equitable outcomes for all.


Tamahaia Skinner

Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu

Tamahaia SkinnerHe aha koe i tono ai hei Kaihautū Marautanga?

Nā te pai o te kaupapa mahi mō te Kaihautū Marautanga Māori ahau i tō mai ki Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga. Me te mea nei, e taea e ahau te torotoro haere i ngā Kōhanga Reo me ngā Kura Māori i tōku rohe (Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatū), me te tautoko atu ki te whakawhanake marau ā kura. Ā, he hiahia hoki nōku kia tomo mai ki Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga hei kanohi kitea, hei kanohi Māori mō ōku iwi, heoti anō te iwi Māori whānui.

He aha te ngako o tēnei tūranga?

He toro atu ki ngā Kura Māori me ngā Kōhanga Reo, kia tautoko atu i te whakatinanatanga o ngā marau ā kura e aronui atu ana ki te hauora o te tamaiti. Ko te hauora e kōrerohia nei, ko te hauora ā tinana, ā wairua, ā hinengaro, ā whānau anō hoki.

He tautoko, he akiaki hoki i ngā kaiako i te wā ka riro i a rātau ngā rauemi hou ka whakaputaina e Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga. Ko te mea nui ki ahau, he whakarongo, he whakawhanaunga i waenganui i ngā Kura Māori me ngā Kōhanga Reo. 


Tiffini Campbell


Tiffini CampbellI joined the Ministry in February 2021 as a Curriculum Lead after teaching and leading in the early learning sector for 12 years. When I was leading in my last teaching role, I was most excited by driving positive change in curriculum and supporting teachers in implementing effective teaching and learning within a whānau based approach to learning. In the role of Curriculum Lead, I support teachers in our region with unpacking and implementing curriculum documents and building capability to strengthen localised curriculum that supports all ākonga. A key aspect of this role that I find exciting is that I can support teachers to have a stronger voice in giving feedback on using current curriculum resources and collaborative input into future curriculum resource planning and development.


Geoff Meadows


Geoff MeadowsI joined the Ministry at the end of April 2021. Prior to this role, I was a School Relationship Manager for four and a half years at NZQA. I also had 15 years working in secondary schools, which included senior leadership. I became a Curriculum Lead because of the challenge that the role brings. It is an exciting time to be working with schools, especially with the implementation of the NZC refresh and a focus on well-being and equity through a well-designed local curriculum. Along with my experience working in the sector, I build strong relationships with schools so that I can work in partnership with teachers and provide the support that they need.


Nadia Lowden

Nelson, Malborough, West Coast

Nadia LowdenPrior to joining the Ministry of Education in May 2021, I was a teaching Deputy Principal in Porirua, as well as an AST for our Kahui Ako with a focus on Curriculum Design. Being a Curriculum Lead is an opportunity for me to use my knowledge, experience, and passion for curriculum to work in partnership with schools and teachers to design and deliver rich and responsive localised curriculum that in turn supports student wellbeing.


Janine Higgins

Nelson, Malborough, West Coast

Janine HigginsI’ve been fortunate to have a variety of roles and experiences in education prior to taking on the curriculum lead role, including Deputy Principal roles at two local schools, co-leadership of a local Kāhui Ako, Board of Trustees chairperson, and 20 years of classroom teaching experience in a variety of settings (NZ Primary, Intermediate & Secondary, UK Primary).  Curriculum design genuinely interests and inspires me. Being a proud mum to one tween and two teenagers is a sound reality check for how important curriculum design is for the engagement and achievement of our tamariki and rangitahi.


Kathryn O’Connell-Sutherland


Kathryn O’Connell-SutherlandI come to this role after nearly 30 years immersed in the early learning sector enriched by many experiences, opportunities and relationships established along the way. I have background and passion for early learning, relational pedagogy, culturally sustaining leadership and intentional curriculum decision making. In previous roles, I have supported kaiako in tertiary education at Te Rito Maioha and as an education manager at Kidsfirst Kindergartens. Most recently, I was part of a national programme to support kaiako to begin to implement the refreshed Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early childhood curriculum and was responsible for leading a national team in the design and delivery of PLD programmes for CORE Education Tātai Aho Rau. As Senior Curriculum Lead (early learning), I am motivated to learn and grow in my role in Te Mahau (the newly designed ministry of education) to listen, be responsive and support equitable outcomes in partnership with mana whenua. I am proud to work alongside a dynamic team and continue to champion the early years sector, strengthen local curriculum and promote more effective feedback opportunities into the design of resources and support that are available to leaders, kaiako, parents and whānau. I intend to take practical action to give effect to the underpinning aspirations of our curriculum and improve outcomes for all tamariki mokopuna across Aotearoa.

He whāriki hei whakamana i te mokopuna, hei kawe i ngā wawata

A whāriki that empowers the child and carries our aspirations


Averill Manning


Averill ManningI came to the Curriculum Lead position with many years’ experience in the education sector as a secondary school teacher, leader, researcher and Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Education in Christchurch. Much of my experience in the education sector has been in settings with students who no longer attend mainstream education. I believe that a well-designed, inclusive curriculum has a central role in supporting the engagement, achievement and wellbeing of all ākonga. This is an exciting time for curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand and I am looking forward to supporting leaders and teachers as they design rich learning experiences that enable students to flourish.


Sharon White



Loretta Schmidt

Otago-Southland — Invercargill

Loretta SchmidtI applied for the role of Curriculum Lead because I was part of the Korero Mātauranga in Christchurch and heard ākonga say they didn’t see themselves in their learning or understand why they were learning it. The community and whanau questioned this too.  I felt an immediate connection to the kaupapa of the Curriculum Lead role and wanted to support the wellbeing of our Māori and Pacific ākonga. As a Māori and Pacific teacher, I took responsibility for looking after my community and youth.  As a mentor and careers advisor for Pacific students, I guided them at school and transitioning into work or further study.  I strongly believe in Hauora and I love education. I believe that this role will enable me to make a difference for our ākonga. The most important part of my role is working with kaiako to help them develop their own flavour of curriculum for their ākonga.  Influencing change for the better and giving our ākonga a chance to be successful in their own skin.   


Jess Tuhega

Otago-Southland — Dunedin

Jess TuhegaTēnā koutou katoa, ko Rangiuru te maunga, ko Kaituna te awa, ko Te Arawa te waka, ko Tapuika te iwi, ko Ngati Moko te hapū, ko Te Pāmu rāua ko Tapuika ōku marae. Ko Jess Tuhega tōku ingoa. No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

I have lived in Ōtepoti/Dunedin most of my life as this is where the whānau I was raised by reside. My partner and I have chosen to remain here to raise our own tamariki as we have connections also to the place and the people. Ōtepoti is home.

I have worked within the Early Learning sector for over 20 years now both in New Zealand and overseas. I joined the Ministry of Education in March 2021 as a Curriculum Lead after working within the tertiary sector for 13 years at Te Rito Maioha – Early Childhood NZ. My mahi within the initial teacher education space has deepened my knowledge of early learning education culturally, pedagogically and theoretically, however the experience on how to apply this practically has been of most value. The education of Māori and Pacific learners and working with diverse learners is where my passion and strengths can be found.

I am excited about the potential the Curriculum Lead role has to engage early learning services, schools and the kaiako within them to support critical thinking’ about working in partnership with the community, the whānau and ākonga to design meaningful learning experiences that affirms and celebrates identity, language and culture. When all tamariki start to see themselves and the cultural values and beliefs of their whānau reflected within the curriculum, that is when success will become evident. It is not an impossible job, but it is going to take some time, hard work, dedication, and commitment.

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