Our Leaders

Linda and Evan Ward (Director)

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.

Alisha Pretorius (Albany)

Alisha relocated to New Zealand in 2019.  She is married to Sakkie and they are blessed with two beautiful boys, Zack and Albert.  As a family they like to spend most of their time outdoors. She obtained her Bachelor of Education degree in 2010 at the University of Potchefstroom in South Africa. She worked in a Primary school for 8 years. She is very passionate about what she does, educating children to become adults with a passion for life. It brings her great satisfaction to see how a child can learn and grow on all sorts of different levels. In her spare time, she likes to pursue her passion for education by reading educational books that support and develop her teaching skills.

Louette van Deventer (Warkworth)

Aunty Louette is originally from South Africa. She and her husband, Dewald, like to spend time with friends and family. They were both raised in Christian homes and have a deep love for God. Louette has a talent for art and craft; especially painting and sewing. Home decorating and house design also bring her joy. She and her husband love the outdoors and are keen to explore New Zealand.

Louette studied for her Bachelor of Education degree in S.A in a small town called Potchefstroom in the North West province. She completed her studies in 2010. She has been a teacher ever since. She loves children and thoroughly relishes the role of being a godmother to a baby boy.

Louette is of the opinion that she is called to be a teacher. She is passionate about children and enjoys each stage of their development.

Anette van Rooyen (Te Kauwhata)

Anette’s passion for children led her and her husband to open up their home to many children from a local South African Children’s Home; offering foster care to children over weekends and school holidays. They quickly became popular foster care parents for previously abused children and were able to give these wonderful children the urgently needed love and support they required.  Anette immigrated to New Zealand in January 2009. After experiencing the Christchurch earthquakes, they didn’t hesitate to move to North. Since then, they have toured through most of New Zealand. Anette loves the outdoors and with her children now grown up, she and her husband can enjoy the freedom of being able to pack their bags on a Friday afternoon and set off for their next adventure. The growing number of grandchildren is also keeping her young and fit!

Anette works with our young children and Reach Forward Early Learning Cnetre is so blessed to have her work for us as she is enthusiastic, energetic, cheerful and full of creativity.

Helen Topliss (Curriculum Mentor)

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.

What our parents say