Albany Staff

Linda and Evan Ward

Linda is the owner and manager of the Reach Forward Early Learning Centres. Right from the very start she knew she would be involved in teaching – as a young girl she would line her dolls up and proceed to show them all how to read and write. From these humble beginnings she has soared in her career.

For the first 11 years of her work life she taught primary aged school children both here, in New Zealand and overseas. And then before moving on to owning and operating her own businesses she spent a further 11 years working in a church developing their children’s enterprises. Previous experience in opening six children’s facilities led to this stage of her career. But owning and operating Childcare Centres is not all Linda loves to do. She has a passion for training teachers to be effective and gifted professionals. She has published several professional education articles. Her collection of books continues to grow as she buys more and more to assist those under her care.

Travel features high on her goals in life. She has already travelled to over 39 countries – Europe, Africa, America and Asia but she still longs to see more.

Her husband, Evan, spent his teenage years (from 10 to 20) in the middle of the Borneo jungle whilst his parents shared Jesus with the local Dyak people. Evan speaks fluent Indonesian, Dyak and English. Both Evan and Linda support many mission ventures. Having spent many years in the jungle Evan is a practical man – the centres property manager. Spending his young formative years working with people who had very little in the way of material possessions has influenced Evan’s thoughts and actions; he is constantly grateful for the life he has, here in New Zealand. His days are filled with maintenance work, building, carpentry and technology; making him a valuable member of our team.

Both love belonging to a local church. They relax by cooking up a storm and having theme dinner parties with family and friends.

Linda leads by example, works with all her might and has the vision and capacity to grow Reach Forward into a place where children, teachers and families develop and flourish.

Helen Topliss – Lead Teacher

Being a school dental nurse in Britain, a teacher’s aide in a local school and working for the North Shore City Council as the community co-ordinator are just some of the jobs that Helen did before she decided to fulfil her life-long dream of becoming a teacher.

The opportunity finally arrived and she was able to take some time off to study. Gaining her Bachelor of Education has lead to so many doors of opportunity opening to her. She finds working with children exciting as they are so honest and true. Once when writing the number of her age down on a piece of paper, the child turned to her and said, “Wow, that’s lots!” She was never really sure if the child could read the number or had just taken a good look at her.

Some of the defining moments of her life have been her wedding day, the day she found out that she had a child to adopt, the day her son had a major accident and the day she received her qualification letter. In her spare time Helen loves to be involved in local theatre, whether it is behind the scenes or on the stage.

Being English by birth gives her wonderful clear diction which is a great help for our young children. Once or twice a year she and her family love to get away from all things that plug in. Spending time outdoors allows for quality time with her family and friends that she so enjoys. Helen also enjoys walking as it keeps her fit whilst giving her great thinking time.

One of her goals is to take time out to travel. When asked where she would most like to go she replies with a hearty, “Almost anywhere!” But then she rethinks and says that Rome with its old buildings and striking architecture would be of great interest to her.

We thank her for being our lead teacher as we appreciate her hard work ethic, inspirational manner and deep interest in children and their learning.

Sonia Latour – Teacher

Sonia gained her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of South Africa specialising in Early Childhood Development. She was born in Durban, South Africa, a coastal tourist destination. Sonia has a huge passion for children. From a young age she always wanted to be a teacher. She has many years of teaching experience having firstly worked in a primary school and then in a special needs school.

Sonia loves the outdoors and enjoys tennis, horse riding and reading. Whilst in South Africa, Sonia invested in her own Horseworx franchise, giving equi-therapy lessons to children with physical, mental and emotional disabilities or challenges. Now in New Zealand, she takes every opportunity she can to be with animals. Sonia is married and initially came to New Zealand to visit her brother. But the inevitable happened and she fell in love with the country and its people. Sonia has settled into New Zealand life and enjoys raising her growing family in her new country. Thank you Sonia, for coming to work with us.

Lisa Lin – Teacher

I was born in Taiwan and came to New Zealand when I was 9 years old. My dream of becoming a teacher derived from my grandmother’s passion in teaching as a primary school teacher / deputy principal in Taiwan. However, my love for teaching grew even more as I studied the child-focused pedagogy of the New Zealand’s educational approach. After having done a few years of training in primary teaching, I decided to change to Early Childhood Education due to the birth of my first child. I believe that children should be viewed as competent and capable individuals regardless of their age and abilities. Each step of their journey is a cause for celebration and delight.

I enjoy spending my spare time with my two children – Lucas and Libby. I also enjoy being an active member of my church worship team as a pianist and an oboist. My other passions include badminton and swimming, learning new languages such as Korean, Japanese and New Zealand Sign Language as well as enhancing my skills in the creative arts.

Stacey Champion – Teacher

Stacey was born in South Africa and moved to New Zealand when she was 8 years old. She loves working with children of all ages. Stacey discovered her passion for teaching children when she became involved with the kids and youth ministry at her church.

After gaining a bachelor degree in hospitality management and working for a short while in the hospitality industry, Stacey decided to change her career direction and answer her calling to be a teacher and gained a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (ECE) in 2015.

Stacey has previously worked in summer camps in America, where she was able to grow in her passion for children and share the gospel with them.

In her spare time, Stacey enjoys watching movies, reading, spending time with friends and heading out to the beach.

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