MANZ Council and Staff

Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand (MANZ) is governed by a voluntary Council and managed by an Executive Officer and Accounts and Administration Officer.

Gilian Somers, MANZ President

Gilian became the president of MANZ after the 2014 AGM. She was co-opted to MANZ Council in August 2007, elected in April 2008 and re-elected in 2010 and 2012.

She is principal of New Zealand’s oldest Montessori School. Gillian completed her Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) 3-6 and 6-12  training in her native Ireland and then moved to New Zealand in the early 1990’s. She taught at New Plymouth Montessori School and undertook her Diploma in Teaching Early Childhood Education. In 2005, Gillian took over as principal. The school comprises of 100 children from 3 – 6 year olds as well as supporting a Montessori primary unit of 30 children. Gillian was the chair of the Montessori Journey to Excellence Te ara ki huhuatanga Working Group.

Michela Homer, MANZ Council

Michela was elected to MANZ Council in 2013 and was re-elected in 2015. She is currently the Regional Professional Services Manager for the BestStart in the lower North Island. Her personal philosophy and belief for education is that it truly takes a whole community to raise the next generation. As a teacher who has worked in early childhood in a va​riety of settings and countries over the years, she has seen this repeatedly and genuinely believes that early childhood is the most important work ever!

She completed her Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) 3-6 diploma in London in 1994 and worked in two very diverse Montessori centres in the U.K. When Michela moved to NZ, she was privileged to work as the centre manager for a small Montessori centre in Tauranga for two years and loved seeing Montessori in Aotearoa truly make a difference to children’s lives.

Michela considers the work we do is grounded in effective, meaningful relationships. It never ceases to amaze her how when we work collaboratively, we can make a real difference for tamariki and their families. She is motivated and inspired to work alongside her teams and MANZ to lift and improve outcomes for children, parents and teachers and to provide the best that we possibly can. ​

Rose Phillips, MANZ Council

Rose was first elected to MANZ Council in April 2009 and re-elected in 2011, 2013 and 2015.  Rose began her teaching career with Eastern Suburbs Montessori Primary in Auckland  and is currently the senior teacher of the Montessori Unit.  Rose completed her Montessori training at Toronto Montessori Teacher Training Institute, Canada.  She holds a teaching diploma from North Shore Teachers College and a BEd (Tchg) from the University of Auckland.  She completed her MEd (Literacy) from the University of Auckland in 2001 focusing her research on comparing reading achievement in Montessori and New Zealand state schools. Rose has also supported MANZ for many years with her contribution to the AUT Primary Consultative Committee.

Jan Gaffney, MANZ Council

Jan trained and taught at the 3-6, 6-9 and 9-12 levels before becoming principal of  Wa Ora Montessori school, New Zealand’s largest Montessori school. While there, she was responsible for adding a playgroup for under threes and an adolescent programme and high school, ensuring that Wa Ora was a one stop shop for education. An ardent proponent of life long learning, she earned her Master’s in Montessori Integrated Learning, won a Woolf Fisher scholarship to attend the University of Auckland Excelerator Leadership Programme and undertook additional Montessori training at the 3-6 and the 12-18 levels. Jan is the past-president of MANZ, a position she held from 2006-2014, and continues to serve on the council today.  Jan ended her tenure as principal of Wa Ora at the end of term 2, and is moving to Bali to work with Bali Montessori School for the next year.

Anne-Marie Love, MANZ Treasurer

Anne-Marie was elected onto MANZ Council at the 2014 AGM and to treasurer November, 2015. She is the managing teacher at the Montessori Children’s House in Wanaka. Anne-Marie has been teaching in a Montessori early childhood environment for 20 years. After completing her Montessori diploma and working for a year in London, she returned to Dunedin. In 1998 the opportunity arose for her to take up the role as head teacher in Wanaka and she now leads a staff of 10. Anne-Marie has been a participant in the Montessori Journey to Excellence Pilot Programme (2013-14) and Montessori Children’s House was a finalist in the inaugural Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Award in 2014. She began her Assocition Montessori Internationale (AMI) 3-6 training in Auckland in 2015.

Mamira Ali, MANZ Council

Mamira is the Head of School at Montessori House of Children, which opened three years ago and has recently opened her second Centre in Hamilton.  As a child Mamira attended Montessori schools in Pakistan and her children have all attended Montessori schools. Mamira stood for MANZ Council at the 2014 AGM, was co-opted by MANZ Council and elected on to the Council in 2015.

Katie Thomson, MANZ Council

Katie was elected onto MANZ Council at the 2015 AGM. She is currently the Lead Montessori Teacher at Ōrākei School Montessori, Auckland which opened in January 2017. Katie started her journey as a Montessori kaiako (teacher) by working at Montessori @ Bethlehem, Tauranga before moving up to Auckland. She has taught at Eastern Suburbs Montessori and was part of the team that started Meraki Montessori in 2015. Katie is completing her Montessori Diploma for teaching children aged 6-12 years and has also attended professional development on Montessori in Aged Care Settings, particularly with regard to dementia care. She is an active participant in the Montessori Journey to Excellence, Te ara ki huhuatanga, for Ōrākei School Montessori

Louise Booth, MANZ Council

Louise is originally from Ireland but has been living in NZ since Dec 2005. She completed her Bachelor in Humanities in Montessori Education (birth – 12 years) in 2004. As part of her bachelor she completed 4 years of Child Psychology and 4 years of Special Education. Louise has experience teaching in Montessori schools both in Ireland and NZ. In 2006, Louise returned to study for her Graduate Diploma in ECE here in NZ. She is the owner of Little Einsteins Montessori, having 2 Montessori preschools in Mount Maunganui. Louise is very passionate about Montessori and is excited about the journey ahead for Montessori in Aotearoa.

Cathy Wilson, MANZ Executive Officer

Cathy commenced working for MANZ in 2015 having been on the MANZ Council from 2011 to 2015 and becoming the treasurer in 2013. She worked at Upper Valley Montessori and Mana Montessori before joining Wa Ora Montessori School in Lower Hutt in 1999, where she was the deputy principal. Cathy completed the Aperfield Montessori Diploma in 1998, Associated Montessori Internationals (AMI) diploma in 2010 and worked as a tutor for Aperfield Montessori  2008 – 2015. She has delivered numerous workshops for the Early Childhood Council, Victoria University and MANZ and presented at Early Childhood Council and MANZ conferences.  Cathy joined the working group of MJ2Ex (Montessori Journey to Excellence) Te ara ki huhuatanga in 2011 and is currently studying towards her Masters degree through Massey University. Cathy is available to run professional development tailored for you.

Charmaine Brown, Accounts and Administration Officer

Charmaine joined MANZ in May 2017.  She has a background in accounting and seminar event management.  She recently completed her Diploma in Te Reo Maori after two years of full time study at Whitireia Polytechnic. She is a busy Mum of three teenagers and is also actively involved with her marae and a number of charities, and has consequently gained considerable experience in the not for profit sector.