top of page
Staff Xmas 2022.3.jpg


A bunch of loving, trusting wonderful humans! Our team includes our staff, our governance board and our fundraising committee


Passionate, dedicated, and loving, Te Akonga Early Learning Centre teachers love their work and it shows in everything they do. Our goal is to make a positive difference on children who come to our Early Childhood Education Centre.

Vanessa Moloney.jpg

Vanessa Moloney

Operations & Administration Manager

My name is Vanessa and I am privileged to be the Operations & Administration Manager of Te Akonga Early Learning Centre. 

I have had a long history with Te Akonga ELC, I first came to Te Akonga as a parent in 2007 and am proud to say, all three of our tamariki have been Te Akonga babes. Following several years working on the floor as a reliever and later in the role of Office Administrator, I am proud to have been given the opportunity of becoming the Operations & Administration Manager in 2022.  I consider it a privelidge to be able to work for an amazing company, in a dream team, doing the job I love, while still being able to interact with the beautiful children in our care. 

I am so proud of the inclusive learning environment we offer here at Te Akonga and absolutely admire our hard working, dedicated, loving, team of teachers. Our Governance Board, our Fundraising Committee and our wider community of dedicated parents, make our place super special. We welcome new families to join us, so pop in and see us anytime.

Erin Akast.jpg

Erin Akast

Curriculum Manager

I began my teaching career at Te Akonga in 2005, completing a Bachelor of Education, followed by a Graduate Diploma in Early Intervention. I believe in providing children with an environment in which they are seen, heard, valued and supported to grow as unique individuals. I believe it is our job as teachers to support children to grow as explorers, problem solvers, negotiators and decision makers.

Robyn Whare Te Akonga ELC Head Teacher.jpg

Robyn Whare

Head teacher - Koru

Kia ora I'm Robyn Whare, I am married with 6 children who have all attended Te Akonga Early Learning Centre. My journey with Te Akonga began as a parent 23 years ago. I have gone from being a parent to the cleaner to a reliever to now being a qualified early childhood educator.


I currently work 1:1 with our children who need extra support. I have a long history with Te Akonga and have enjoyed every moment of it and I look forward to many more years of teaching and learning.

Jo Moller.jpg

Jo Moller

Head teacher - Pitau

Kia ora, I’m Jo and I am a qualified, certificated teacher with a Bachelor Degree in ECE. I first came to Te Akonga in 2014 as a student teacher and knew it was a place where I wanted to stay, due to the inclusive philosophy and the caring, welcoming environment. I am now head teacher in the Pitau room where I have the privilege of working with an amazing team of kaiako. 


I fully believe in respectful care for all children, and take my inspiration from the early childhood literature of Wallis, Gerber and Pikler. As a teacher I strive to provide each child with a secure and loving place to spend their time. If that is achieved then learning and fun will follow. 


I look forward to meeting your beautiful children and forming solid relationships with your whānau.

Our Staff


Teacher - Koru

Angelique van Leeuwen.1.JPG

I have been working in ECE since 2011 and started working as a home based educator which enabled me to work and be at home for my children. In 2019 I came to Te Akonga as a student and never left as this place feels just right for me and we have a very good team of amazing teachers. I am now a qualified and certified teacher with a Bachelor Degree in ECE. 


I am passionate about creating a warm, welcoming home-like learning environment that promotes secure, respectful, and reciprocal relationships in which children feel loved. To offer an inclusive and play based curriculum in which I can support learning opportunities that are relevant, meaningful, and engaging to children. 


I have been married for 23 years and have two children, a son, and a daughter.  We have a variety of animals in and around the house and I love being outside to enjoy all nature has to offer. Hence my love for the outdoors and leading the Monday Envirokidz programme. 



Teacher - Koru

Petty Moyo.jpg

I hold bachelor’s degree in ECE and a Diploma in Primary School Education at the United College of Education in Zimbabwe - where I am from. I believe that children everywhere develop in similar ways and according to the
universal stages of development; that they are not passive learners but social
actors who make important contributions to their development.


I love my job, especially here at Te Akonga where there is real inclusiveness and embracing of cultural diversity. I also love being part of this amazing family.


Teacher - Koru

Waipouri Adams.jpg

I'm a teacher in training here at Te Akonga. I'm currently studying through Te Rito o Maioha, to become a qualified ECE teacher. I first arrived at Te Akonga as an Education Support Worker before joining the team. Before heading into this journey of becoming an ECE teacher, I knew nothing but my own motherly instincts as I am the proud mother of three beautiful, talented tamariki. It is through Te Akonga that I have grown to love my place within the centre and also the community. I'm ever so grateful to be working alongside beautiful, kind hearted women whom I have learnt a lot from over these past years. I love how our centre is strong in whanaungatanga, kotahitanga and manaakitanga. No reira, tena koutou katoa.


Teacher - Koru

Mel Foster.png

Kia ora, my journey here at Te Akonga started in 2019 as a parent where with my eldest daughter joined Koru followed by my youngest daughter joining Pitau . Over that time I began my degree in early childhood teaching and thought what better way to begin my teaching career than with the amazing kaiako and tamariki at Te Akonga. I started as a reliever, left to have my youngest child, then returned where my son joined Pitau and I became a permanent kaiako in Koru. I now hold my diploma and bachelors degree in early childhood education, and cherish working alongside the Te Akonga whānau. I enjoy finding new ways to support and engage tamariki in a variety of learning experiences. Group learning experiences is a major focus within my teaching where tamariki are encouraged to work alongside one another, developing a variety of social skills. I strongly believe in inclusive and equitable opportunities for all tamariki and whānau which is why Te Akonga is the place for me and my whānau.


Teacher - Koru

Zelna Rennie.JPG

In 2009 my husband and I chose to make New Zealand our home. We became parents and I learnt that children can be our greatest teachers if we are open and available to them. My son's kindergarten experience led me to a career change, and I completed my Bachelors degree in Education (ECE).

Studying education in Aotearoa gave me understanding and ultimately a deep respect for Te Ao Māori, which now underpins my views and values as a Kaiako. Understanding the interconnectivity of all living things brings new meaning to respectful and reciprocal relationships. I am proudly committed to practice and citizenship that honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi.


I view children as complete and powerful beings within their cultural context, unfolding like a koru in their own time and rhythm. I work alongside children to stimulate their innate curiosity and drive to explore, investigate, question and test their theories, challenge themselves and connect their learning experiences to make sense of the world around them.

I believe curiosity fosters inquiry and life-long learning.


I place high value on whānau relationships, as it is only when we connect and work together to provide continuity and a home-away-from home environment that tamariki truly thrive.


Teacher - Koru

Rene Strydom.JPG

Kia Ora, I am a mother of two beautiful girls, through which I discovered my passion for teaching.  I began my teaching career in 2014 and hold a higher certificate in Early Childhood Development.  I believe that every child deserves respect and gentle care in a loving environment where they will be supported to reach their full potential and grow into independent individuals.

I started my journey at Te Akonga as a reliever in September 2019 and am privileged to have became a full time member of the Koru team, where I am able to work alongside a great group of teachers.


Teacher - Pitau/Koru

Kayla Cutten.jpg

Working in early childhood has always been a big passion of mine and I can remember my grandparents telling me when I was much younger that they could see me having a career just like I have now.  I have a love for nature and animals, and have recently discovered that I enjoy photography, especially capturing shots of our tamariki in action.

I started working at Te Akonga as a reliever in 2020 and in 2022 moved into a permanent as part of the wonderful Koru team.  During my time at Te Akonga I have learnt so much and have been able to create beautiful bonds with the tamariki.


I strongly believe that every child deserves equal learning opportunities and this is reflected in everything Te Akonga is about.


Teacher - Pitau

Karen Purua.jpg

I have worked within Te Akonga or many years, firstly as an Early Support Worker, a student teacher to now a fully qualified and certificated educator, nurturing and supporting ngā tamariki within our Pitau space. Te Ao Māori resonates within my teaching practice through values and beliefs I uphold to, to sharing of waiata and korero Māori alongside tamariki. In Pitau we love to dream and play, laugh, sing, dance and grow beautiful minds.


Come for a chat, the jug is hot and our door is always open. No reira, 'Poipoia te kakano, kia puawai - Nurture the seed and it will blossom'. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.


Teacher - Pitau

Amy Magallanes.jpg

I have been working in the education sector since 2018. I have a Bachelor of Education in Primary teaching and I made the move to early childhood education when I had my son at the start of 2022.


I love working with infants and toddlers and seeing them learn and grow through play. I am really lucky to be able to work in Pitau alongside my son. 


Building relationships with my tamariki and families is the most important thing to me.


"Children don't care what you know until they know that you care" is a quote I live by.

I am passionate about sensory play and love learning through hands on exploration and messy play. I end up leaving at the end of each day just as messy as my Tamariki!

I look forward to being part of your learning journey at Te Akonga.


Teacher - Pitau

Sonya Finlayson.jpg

I have been part of the Te Akonga whānau for many years, firstly as a parent when my two younger children came through our centre, then as a reliever, an education support worker, as a staff member in both Koru and Pitau and I am now part of the Pitau team full time.


I thoroughly enjoy working with our tamariki and helping them to flourish within our environment whilst being part of an amazing team.


Teacher - Pitau

Katelin Bignell.jpg

I started my journey at Te Akonga as a parent. I have 2 daughters that both attend Te Akonga and they love coming every day. It fills me with such Aroha watching my children thrive here.

I have always wanted to work with children since I was young and it is my dream to become a fully qualified ECE Teacher in the near future. Other than working my dream job I have a true passion for sports and love a good old dance party.


When a position became available in 2022 for the role of Kitchen & Laundry Assistant I jumped at the chance of joining such an amazing team. In 2023 a further opportunity presented itself to move into a role that would see me working alongside the Pitau Team in a permanent teaching role. I have loved every day in this role and the Te Akonga family have given me so much love and support in all areas of my life. I love working on and building relationships with all of our tamariki, whānau and staff.


Kitchen & Laundry Assistant - ESW Support and all-round superstar

Mary-Alice Huxtable Etherington.jpg

My personal information is coming soon..........................

Governance Board


Te Akonga Early Learning Centre is a community based, not for profit centre, governed by parents who make up our Governance Board.

The Governance Board is elected at the Annual General Meeting and consists of a Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, Centre Manager, Staff Representative and Parent Representatives. The board meets monthly and is responsible for the governance function of the centre.

Te Akonga Governance Board.jpg

Current members:

Robyn Moloney - Te Akonga Founder 

Anne Boulton - Chairperson

Vanessa Moloney - Operations & Admin Manager, Treasurer

Erin Akast - Curriculum Manager, Secretary

Jo Moller/Sonya Finlayson - Staff Representatives

Shanae Thomson - Parent Representative

Tim Brown - Parent Representative

Laura Moloney - Parent Representative

Mairead Gallagher - Parent Representative

Cristina Smith - Parent Representative

Lizzie Farrell - Community Representative

Robyn Wesche - Community Representative

Hine Soloman - Community Representative


Our centre has a voluntary fundraising committee made up of parents, caregivers and staff. The aim of the Fundraising Committee is to raise funds to cover expenses over and above the usual funding received.


The fundraising committee hosts several fundraising events throughout the year that are often targeted at resources and experiences that will directly benefit our children e.g. our annual Trikeathon, whole centre trip and children's christmas party.

bottom of page