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.

Maddi Tungatt

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.

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.

Emily Carter

Kia Ora my name is Emily Carter, I live in Totara Park with my fiancé and 3 beautiful children.

I originally studied for a diploma in ECE in the UK around 10 years ago and I am now currently completing my degree in ECE through the New Zealand Tertiary College.

I am passionate about the learning and development of young children and believe through positive relationships with children and their families we can support and nurture our children to become confident and competent learners.

In my spare time I love going to the beach and taking my children on bush walks in our amazing country.

I look forward to sharing the learning journey of your tāmariki with you.

Hayley Farrell

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.

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.

Hannah Bartholomew 

Kia ora! 

My name is Hannah and I have been teaching here at Children First for two years. I have been working in Early Childhood for seven years and completed my Early Childhood teaching degree through Te Rito Maioha in 2016. Prior to teaching and working at Children First, I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time travelling. Two of my favourite countries I've been to so far are Jordan and Uganda. They are both so environmentally beautiful and filled with unique wildlife! This year in 2019, I am going to Thailand and Vietnam. I am very much looking forward to sampling the local delicacies and learning about local history. Travelling has helped me develop two of my key passions in teaching: environmental sustainability, and teaching from a multi-cultural point of view. I am excited to learn about each child's unique culture, and I strive to include these cultures in my everyday practice. As a child, I was so lucky to grow up in a bi-cultural setting. My Nana is fluent in te reo Māori and taught me a lot of what I know. I also grew up following tikanga Māori, so this, along with te reo Māori are important aspects to my teaching. I enjoy building strong relationships with whānau and I look forward to working alongside you and your tamariki!

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.

Claudia Nicholas

Kia ora Whānau, tēnā koutou katoa
Ko Ruapehu tōku māunga
Ko Whanganui tōku awa
Ko Aotea tōku waka
Ko Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi tōku iwi
Ko Otoko tōku marae
Nō Kaitoke ahau

Nō reira,

Mauri ora ki a tatou katoa

Hello, I’m Claudia and I am part of the Ave team at Children First. I was born and bred in Wainuiomata where I completed my secondary schooling at Wainuiomata High School in 2018. I am the middle child of 5 and have recently moved to Kaitoke. I completed a certificate in Early Childhood in June 2018 and am currently a teacher in training studying towards my degree through Te Rito Maioha

My teaching practice is a lot about having fun and having the children enjoy themselves through their play-based learning. I value forming respectful relationships with the children and their whānau to build a secure, meaningful, and trusting environment where children and whānau know they have a place. 

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