Albany Staff

Linda Ward – Managing Director and Owner

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 five 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 particular passion for training teachers to be effective and gifted professionals. Her collection of books continues to grow as she buys more and more in order to assist those under her care.

Travel features high on her goals in life. She has already travelled to over 34 countries – Europe, Africa, America and Asia but she still longs to see more. She says travel has broadened her view of people – deep down we are all the same but the way we express ourselves can be so diverse. This diversity is the spice of life. Mission trips to other countries to help the locals with whatever they need is also one of her passions.

Her husband spent his childhood in the middle of Borneo whilst his parents shared Jesus with the local Dyak people. So consequently both Evan and herself support many mission ventures. Daily disciplines such as Bible reading and prayer and the joy of belonging to a local church keep her life in balance. And cooking up a storm and having theme dinner parties allows for quality time with her 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.

Yvette Estanislao – Teacher

Yvette grew up in the Philippines and she says this has helped her become resilient and ‘down to earth’. Her grandfather was a leader within the little town of Muntinlupa. Part of her grandfather’s job was to provide a place for the rehabilitation of prisoners. She saw that each person was treated as a co-operative member of the community and this childhood experience led her to firmly believe that God is above all circumstances and that everyone deserves a second chance and equal respect.

In the Philippines, Yvette gained a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and for 13 years she thoroughly enjoyed assisting people to learn about healthy eating. But she decided to change her career once she discovered that her son had ‘special needs’. She studied Early Childhood Education through Auckland University and has a love for unlocking each child’s individual and diverse style of learning. She thinks being a teacher is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.

Outside of teaching Yvette enjoys travelling and going to the beach. Thank you, Yvette for your valued contributions to our team.

Jay Smit – Teacher

Jaydene Smit is a highly motivated and dedicated teacher who in 2005 emigrated from Durban South Africa to New Zealand. Growing up, Jaydene, enjoyed her swimming and was an active part of a “Nippers” Life Saving Squad. After Bible College she participated in a couple of missions trips around Africa and also travelled to America. Jay says that she loves to create classroom environments that inspire children to investigate and explore. As a qualified early childhood teacher, Jay enjoys all the stages of a child’s development and has worked with infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers. She has developed an interest in drawing as a form of language and literacy.

Jaydene has strong leadership skills and enjoys a challenge. Hence, full time work whilst raising two young boys and actively contributing to her church is all part of a happy and fun filled life.

In her spare time Jay enjoys watching “old classic” movies such as – Mary Poppins, Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang and The Sound of Music. She also values the time she spends with family and friends, either in a coffee shop or cooking up some favourite meals such as pasta or a roast.

We are so pleased to have Jay as a teacher at Reach Forward and we know that she will lovingly care and educate your children.

Claire Perry – Teacher

Claire is passionate about teaching and encouraging children to give their best. She has always had a love for teaching ever since she was a small child. She has a naturally energetic and bubbly personality.

Having recently had her first child she has returned to work part-time. Claire has worked for Reach Forward Early Learning Centre since we opened in February 2010. She is a talented and experienced teacher who consistently goes ‘the second mile” in all that she does. We value Claire as a teacher who is supportive of our curriculum and philosophy. When not at work Claire finds that her time is now largely spent at home or in the company of other parents; learning the tricks of the trade.

Originally from South Africa, Claire immigrated several years ago, has married a “Kiwi” and says that she enjoys the lifestyle that New Zealand has to offer. When Claire is able to find some spare time she enjoys ocean swimming, movies with friends and spending as much time as possible with her family.

Edda Zhao – Teacher

Aunty Edda is originally from China but has spent many years in other countries as she loves travelling. One of her other loves is music. As a young child she learnt to play the bamboo flute and to this day she still loves playing it. She is currently involved in a local orchestra and church choir. Therefore, one of Edda’s strengths is to inspire young children with a love for music as she interweaves this throughout her daily teaching.

After gaining her Bachelor’s Degree in International Economics and Trade Edda went to Germany to complete her masters degree. This enabled her to travel throughout Europe. But then, after the birth of her daughter, she discovered her deep and true passion for caring and learning alongside young children. Since then she has embraced this calling, gaining a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (ECE).

Edda thoroughly enjoys her days with children as she loves to see them exploring, discovering new things and learning the basics that set them up for a great future.

Jasmine Choi – Teacher

Jasmine grew up in a small city called Jeonju, South Korea. When she was 11 years old her family decided to move to New Zealand; for an improved life-style and educational opportunities. She studied at the University of Auckland and has graduated with a Bachelor of Education – primary teaching.

Jasmine has always loved teaching young children and this has driven her to become a preschool teacher. She takes time to prepare her lessons and loves all aspects of teaching which includes planning, evaluating, creating displays, researching new methodology and of course, teaching. During her spare time, Jasmine loves watching movies and spending time with her family and friends. Jasmine attends a local Korean church and teaches in the Sunday School. Jasmine is a young, eager and energetic teacher who brings the knowledge of teaching in the primary sector to our young children.    

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.

Kristene Woodhouse – Assistant teacher

Kristene was born and raised in South Africa and English is her second language. At 17 years of age, Kristene relocated to New Zealand with her family. Kristene married a New Zealander (Mark) and is now a mother of two boys.

Kristene is deaf but received a cochlear implant when she was just 5 years old, this assists with her hearing. Kristene has been working at Reach Forward for a while now and loves her job, especially looking after the babies. Kristene enjoys displaying children’s artwork and is a competent Childcare teacher.

Evan Ward – Property Manager

Evan, Linda’s husband, is the practical work horse that silently operates behind the scenes. His days are full with maintenance work, building, carpentry and technology; makeing him a valuable member of our team. Apart from Linda, Evan’s other passion is audio visual production. His interest in capturing the right “shot” is an extension of his desire to create a perfect environment.

Evan spent 10 years of his life (from age 10 to 20) living in a remote village in the middle of Borneo while his parents did missionary work amongst the Dyak people group. Evan speaks fluent Indonesian and has a real appreciation for the value of things. Spending his young formative years working with people who had very little in the way of material possessions has influenced his thoughts and actions; he is constantly grateful for the life we have, here in New Zealand.

Evan is a huge asset to Reach Forward as his work supports the development of the centres, allowing us to concentrate on developing and delivering the best programme possible

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