Our Staff

Our dedicated team at Children First is what makes our Early Childhood Centre the place that it is.  We have created a caring and nurturing environment for your child to ensure that they are able to grow and develop at their own pace
Lisa October

Kia Ora I am Lisa, I am a qualified registered teacher in ECE.  My passion for Early Childhood Education came from working with children and their families and seeing the role we play as teachers in their lives.  We play an important role in building children’s pro-social skills and developing their love of learning for life.  I enjoy the relationships we build with children and their families and I enjoy thinking of ways that we can provide a learning environment that fosters their curiosity for learning.  Over the time that I have worked in Early Childhood Education I have developed knowledge about working with children and families and I enjoy sharing my knowledge with teachers and learning from others as well.

My husband Enrico and I have two daughters, Ariana and Raniesha and we live in Upper Hutt with our dog Bruno.  I love spending time with family and friends making memories and eating together.  I also enjoy watching movies, reading books and having a good dance.


Phil Simm

Born and bred in Upper Hutt, I now live in Normandale, but still have many family members living/working in Upper Hutt.  I am the eldest of many siblings and so always had young family members and found a natural ability in being able to get along with them and others of a young age.  I got into ECE after I lost my own child at Starship.  I had wanted to do ECE out of school, but joined the workforce for 10 years before losing Alessandra, which was a life changing moment to push me to my dream job.  Outside of work I love sports and games and supporting the Hurricanes, Lions, All Blacks, Phoenix, Liverpool, All Whites, Warriors, Black Caps and Firebirds.  I play football socially on Sundays and enjoy listening to records with a few beers on a Friday with mates.

Jamie Tian

My name is Jamie, my Chinese name is Zhimin Tian. I was born and raised up in Chengdu, a city known by pandas and spicy food like hot pot originated from there. I majored in history and psychology in university years ago in China. Then I studied early childhood education in Auckland and graduated as a graduate diploma student.

Travelling is my favorite and I have been to 21 countries (China, Japan and New Zealand are my favorite ^_^). My dream is to see every places in the world, and the next destination in my bucket list is Iceland, hoping I can be there soon.All my family and my two cats are all in China

Emma Baird

Kia Ora my name is Emma. I was born on the 5th of November 1987. I am from Upper Hutt, New Zealand. My nationality is European New Zealander. My Early Childhood Education experience started in 2006, I have since gained my teaching degree and full certification. I have lived in Upper Hutt all my life. In 2018 I decided to move to Thailand to teach. I completed my TESOL course and taught English to children aged 18 months to 6 years, for three months. Then I travelled all around Asia. What an experience. In 2019 I lived in Queenstown, where I worked in Skiwiland as a ECE teacher and a ski instructor for 3 to 5 year olds. My interests and hobbies include: Snowboarding, Kickboxing, Gym, Yoga, Health - Colour Therapy, Crystal Healing, Art Painting, Fishing, Camping, Social - Family & Friends and Travel. Upper Hutt is home and I am here for 2020 summer. At Children's first I am here to develop leadership skills, role model good teaching practices. New Zealand is beautiful, blue and green and full of rich diverse cultures. I feel that I can make a difference in this world. I am passionate about teaching, I love caring for all children in my care. Sustainability, gardening and art's are my other areas of passion. When working with the children, my favourite activity is getting creative and making a constructive mess. It is exciting to watch the children I teach develop their skills. I enjoy helping children with learning difficulties to reach their full potential. I love working with children as they have this pure soul of truth and simplicity. I find this work rewarding, enjoyable and worthwhile. I feel that I am a great role model and I have a lot of love to share with the children and people I come in contact with. My job makes me happy and that makes the children I care for happy. Working with children is rewarding. Expectations from my upbringing were to always give it your best shot, do it once and do it well, always ask for help if you need it and keep asking questions. I believe every child is unique with special qualities, strengths and interests. My aim is to create a programme that is rich with a diverse range of activities within a flexible, stimulating and inclusive learning environment led by the children’s interests and needs. I will provide learning experiences that motivate the children to participate, explore, question and investigate; inspiring them to embrace challenges and find joy and self worth through their achievements. I feel this enables children to feel empowered as confident, capable learners supporting them to master the cognitive, social and physical skills necessary for a smooth transition to primary school. I will be present and give time. My teaching philosophy is influenced by Reggio Emilia, Vygotsky, Bronfenbrenner, Reggio and Montessori. I am good at my job! I am passionate, I love caring for children.

Catherine Burke

I gained a diploma of teaching in Early Childhood after becoming a mother of 5. I always had a passion for working with children. Through my qualifications and on-going learning I have continued to gain so much knowledge about children and their development/learning.

I have also learned so much about myself and why I work in Early Childhood. I love providing extra support for our children and families as they settle into preschool, I love providing hands on learning experiences for children that are meaningful. Working with different age groups and learning how to best support their learning needs.

I enjoy the conversations and stories children and families share with me, then sharing these and my knowledge with the teaching team. I feel privileged to work with children and their families in this important part of their lives.

I am married to Paul and we have 5 children and 8 grandchildren. In my spare time I enjoy gardening in posts, mixed media art, reading and research work.


Kia ora!

Nō West London ahau

Kei Upper Hutt tōku kāinga ināianei

Ko Russell tōku pāpā

Ko Kelly tōku māmā

Ko Emily tōku ingoa

My name is Emily and I am part of the Ave team at Children First. I have a Bachelor of Education (ECE) and am currently working towards my full teaching registration.

My wonderful whānau; husband, three children and young spoodle puppy live locally in Upper Hutt and I’ve been part of the Children First whānau since 2009.

Tamariki and whānau are at the heart of my teaching practice. I believe that by providing a nurturing environment that is inclusive to all, encompasses a learning environment where tamariki and their whānau are valued, accepted, safe and loved.

I look forward to getting to know you and share this wonderful journey together.

Hayley Farrell
Michelle Cooper

Kia ora I am Michelle Cooper.  I have recently moved to Wellington from Nelson to be closer to my grown up children.  I have been working in Education most of my adult life.  I originally trained as a teacher and taught at a number of primary schools in the Hutt Valley in the 1980”s.   I spent several years in the UK and on my return to New Zealand settled in Nelson to bring up my children. I have always been passionate about education and have found my niche working with our under-fives.  I decided to re-train in early childhood and gained a graduate diploma in Early Childhood in 2005.  If I can help a child have a positive experience in early childhood, where they discover the joy of knowledge and the excitement of learning, then I will be satisfied and they will be well set for the next stage in their education and  understand that education is lifelong.   

I have many interests.  Throughout the years I have been involved in many sports both as a participant and a coach.  I was a swim coach for Waimea club in Richmond Nelson for sixteen years. 

Music and drama have played a big part in my life also.  I was involved in theatre in Nelson and I dabble in several instruments, including guitar.  I am proud to say I have passed on my passion to my children and intend to give the children I teach the chance to experience the joy also.


Kia ora koutou katoa


Ko Kirsty tōku ingoa

Ko Corinne tōku mama

Ko Philip tōku papa

Ko Kūki Āirani raua ko Ngāti Porou tōku iwi

Nō Wainuiomata ahau


My name is Kirsty and I am part of the Avenue team at Children First. In 2020 I completed studying with New Zealand Tertiary College and graduated with a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education). I have 2 children and their experiences in preschool inspired me to become an ECE teacher. I view tamariki as precious taonga whose whānau have put their trust in me to nurture, support, love and care for their tamaiti. I believe in the importance of relationships and creating an environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging.

Noelene McGill

Hi, I am Noelene McGill I have worked in early childcare for twenty years and the last eleven years I have worked at Children First, cooking and teaching.  I have two wonderful children and four beautiful grandchildren, who I love spending time with.  I enjoy watching and playing sports.

Maddi Tungatt
Maddison (2).jpg

Hello, I’m Maddi and I am the head teacher in The Avenue at Children First. I studied at Te Rito Maioha, Early Childhood Education Institute, and graduated with a Bachelor of Teaching in May 2019.
I am the youngest of four siblings, and grew up with teaching in the family as my parents are both secondary school teachers. This year I have moved out of my family home in Totara Park here in Upper Hutt, and have moved I with my partner and his three year old daughter, in Titahi Bay Porirua.

My personal philosophy is to create a respectful, relationship rich, multicultural environment, where tamariki can explore and become confident communicators and learners, through our play based, curiosity approach to learning. I strive to empower tamariki as individuals through celebrating their culture, and the cultures of their peers. I aim to use positive guidance while offering tamariki assistance as they accomplish challenges and goals. I love a simple and naturally resourced environment that invites children to explore grow and develop in their own time.

Kia ora Whānau, tēnā koutou katoa

Ko Dan tōku tāne

Ko Eliza tōku tamāhine

Ko Hayley tōku ingoa

No Upper Hutt ahau

Nō reira,

Mauri ora ki a tatou katoa


Hello, my name is Hayley. I was born in Lower Hutt and now live in Upper Hutt with my husband Dan, daughter Eliza and dog Watson.  My teaching style is relationship focused, where I support a child’s individual needs at the time based upon the relationship that has been built between us. I find great importance in the emotional support and development of children, so I am known by my peers as ‘the cuddly one’. 

I would like to extend the relationship focus to the whānau of our tamariki and assist in your sense of belonging to our Children First family.

Kia ora koutou katoa.

Ko te Atihaunui a pāpārangi tōku iwi

Nō Wainuiomata ahau

Engari e noho ana ahau i Upper Hutt inaianei

Ko Steve tōku pāpā

Ko Lisa tōku māmā

Ko Claudia tōku ingoa

I’m Claudia and am proudly part of the Avenue team at Children First. I am currently in my second year of studying towards a Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) through Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand. I am very relationship focused in my teaching and enjoy creating fun and meaningful learning experiences, authentically incorporating te ao Māori concepts and te reo Māori in my practice.


Nō East London, South Africa ahau

Kei Upper Hutt tōku kāinga ināianei

Ko Mike tōku matua

Ko Carmen tōku whāea

Ko Lindi tōku ingoa


My name is Lindi, and I am a part of the Avenue teaching team at Children First. Currently I am in the position of acting room leader. I have a Bachelor of Education (ECE) and have my full teachers’ registration. I have a beautiful whānau – my husband, our 2 curious and adventurous boys as well as our active golden Lab.

I am passionate about nurturing the curiosity and wonder in children through an unhurried, holistic, and nurturing environment that stimulates the desire for continuous play and learning discoveries. I believe in celebrating individuality, love, and kindness. I place high value on the social and emotional development of children - enabling successful learning outcomes that support competent and capable learners.

I look forward to working in partnership with you and your whānau in our Children First environment.

Kia ora koutou katoa.

Ko Miriam tōku ingoa

Ko Bobby tōku māmā

Ko Richard tōku pāpā

Nō Upper Hutt ahau

I’m Miriam and I am part of the Ave team at Children First. Originally growing up as a child in the Wairarapa, I now live in Upper Hutt. I gained my Diploma of Teaching in ECE in Wellington and have spent the majority of my teaching career working with under threes. I am inspired in my teaching practice to create a safe, challenging and trusting environment for children where they feel empowered.