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.

Gillian Somers, MANZ President

Gillian 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, 2012 2014, 2017 and 2020.

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 years olds as well as supporting a Montessori primary unit. Gillian was the chair of the original Montessori Journey to Excellence Te ara ki huhuatanga Working Group in 2011/2012.

Michela Homer, MANZ Council

Michela was elected to MANZ Council in 2013 and was re-elected in 2015, 2018 and 2021. She is currently the Regional Manager for Provincial Education. 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. ​Michela chaired the Re-Working Party for Montessori Journey to Excellence Te ara ki huhuatanga: Essential Elements which was published in 2019.

Rose Phillips, MANZ Council

Rose has been a representative on MANZ Council since 2009. She began her Montessori teaching career with Eastern Suburbs Montessori Primary at Glendowie School in Auckland in 2002 and is the Lead Teacher of this Unit. Rose completed her Montessori training at Toronto Montessori Teacher Training Institute, Canada and holds a teaching diploma from North Shore Teachers College, a BEd (Tchg) from the University of Auckland and completed her MEd (Literacy) from the University of Auckland focusing her research on comparing reading achievement in Montessori and New Zealand state schools.

Krista Kerr, MANZ Council

Krista has been involved in Montessori since starting as a parent in 2005 with her baby at a playgroup at Wā Ora Montessori in Lower Hutt. Discovering that Montessori was something that she wanted for herself as well as her children, she began her journey by gaining her Early Childhood Education Post Graduate Diploma from Victoria University in 2008. After teaching for 6 months she then moved with her family to London to do the AMI 3-6 Diploma, followed by the Post Diploma Observation Course, returning in 2012 to take up her current position as a Head Teacher.

After having been involved in various things such as running Observation Workshops, Conference speaking and being part of the Reworking Party for MJ2Ex, Krista is now excited to be part of MANZ Council, being elected in 2019, and her continued journey in Montessori in Aotearoa. She is also enjoying watching her two sons continue theirs, both now in the High school at Wā Ora.

Anne-Marie Love, MANZ Treasurer

Anne-Marie was elected onto MANZ Council in 2014 and to the Treasurer position in 2016. 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 25 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.  Anne-Marie completed her Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) 3-6 training in Auckland in 2017.

Mamira Ali, MANZ Council

Mamira Ali, head of Montessori House of Children Hamilton for the past eight years, trained as a Montessori Teacher in Pakistan in 1998.  She has a Bachelors in Education and  over 20 years of experience in Montessori teaching . She has been involved in setting up Montessori schools, under two Montessori environments and running different Montessori preschool programmes.

She lives in Hamilton with her family. She attended a Montessori preschool as a child  and her children have been through Montessori education. A passionate advocate for Montessori education, Mamira was co-opted for MANZ Council in 2014 and re-elected since. Mamira believes that MANZ has played a key role in promoting Montessori education in Aotearoa, supporting Montessori kaiako and giving our Montessori community a voice on a National level. She is proud to be a part of an organisation that is making a positive impact for Montessori in Aotearoa context.

Victoria Denyer, MANZ Council

Victoria was elected to MANZ Council in 2018 and is currently Curriculum Leader for BestStart Montessori Bethlehem in Tauranga, a community catering for 90 tamariki aged 6 months to 6 years.

Coming to Montessori education via her two children over a decade ago, Victoria has a 3-6 Montessori teaching qualification via Aperfield Montessori Trust as well as a B.A in French, an MSc in Global Politics and in 2018 completed a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (ECE).

Cathy Wilson, MANZ Executive Officer

Cathy commenced working for MANZ as the Executive Officer in 2015 having been on the MANZ Council from 2011 to 2015 and the treasurer since 2013. She worked at Upper Valley Montessori and Mana Montessori before joining Wā 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. Over the years she has delivered numerous workshops for the Early Childhood Council, Victoria University and MANZ and presented at Early Childhood Council and MANZ conferences.  Cathy represents MANZ on many Ministry of Education, Teaching Council, Education Review Office and NZQA governance and advisory groups.

Tina Guo, Accounts and Administration Officer

Tina joined MANZ in September 2021. She graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration and a Graduate Diploma in Professional Accounting in 2009.   She became a full member of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2014.

She worked at Audit NZ and Crowe Horwath NZ Audit Partnership. She has gained considerable experience in the not for profit sector through Auditing. She worked at Callaghan Innovation before joining MANZ.