Highly qualified staff | Nursery School

Highly qualified staff

Maria Johnson

Managing Director/Owner/Licensee

Hi my name is Maria Johnson.  I spent my childhood growing up on a farm with my parents, two brothers and three sisters.

I moved to Wellington after training as a Primary School teacher at Hamilton Teachers College and completing my Bachelor of Education at Waikato University. B.Ed, Dip. Tching Primary. In 2006 I studied full time and gained my Early Childhood qualifications from the New Zealand College of Early Childhood Education.

I have four beautiful boys - Mathew, Joshua, Benjamin and Jacob (twins). I love being with my children and watching them grow and develop as individuals! Being a Mum is the greatest job in the world (even though sometimes it tests our patience).

I really enjoy spending time with family and friends, relaxing in my garden and being creative. When there is any spare time I also like to exercise.

I established Little School in 2002 and since then our organisation has grown to continually meet the demand of our families.

I am passionate and ambitious about young children discovering their abilities and providing them with the knowledge, skills and values to make them lifelong learners.  I continually aspire to be a leader in education and thoroughly enjoy this journey.  I am extremely fortunate to work alongside a brilliant team of dedicated teachers at Little School.  Together we aspire to be widely recognised leaders in preschool education.

I am on the Teachers Disciplinary Tribuanl, and a member of the Life Education National Board. 


2012; Wellington Supreme Business Woman of the year, Wellington Best Small to Medium Business, Finalist EY Entrepreneur of the Year, Next Education Finalist.

2017; Finalist Wellington Business Gold Awards, Finalist New Zealand Women of Influence Awards.



Megan Watson

Operations Manager/Enrolments

Hi my name is Megan. I began working as a Teacher at Little School when it first began in 2003.

I have a Diploma in Teaching Early Childhood which I completed at Whitirea Polytech. I then nannyed for two very special families which have remained a special part of my life and I still enjoy watching the children grow.

I took a break from Little School in 2007 when I had my son Oscar, who is a delight. I returned to Little School in 2009 when I became a member of the Management Team which I really enjoy. My son attended Kelburn Little School and was enriched by this experience.

In my sparetime I enjoy cooking, skiing and spending my time with family and friends.

Jane Jennings

Curriculum Co-ordinator

Hi, my name is Jane.  I began working as a teacher at Little School just after it first began in 2003.

I have a Diploma of Teaching in ECE and a Bachelor of Education which I completed at Dunedin College of Education and Otago University in the early 90's.

From mid 2004-2008 I took a break from Little School and Andrew and I had our two children Sarah and Harry - they are busy little people who bring lots of joy, love and laughter to our house.  Sarah attended Khandallah Little School and Harry went to Kelburn before transferring to Khandallah - so I have an interest and perspective in the schools as a parent and as an educator.

I returned to Little School in 2008 as a release teacher and in 2010 I became part of the Management Team and took on the role of teacher support and curriculum support.

In my spare time I enjoy running, walking, cooking, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Claire Russell

Accounts Manager

Hi, my name is Claire. I grew up in Palmerston North with my parents, sister and two brothers.

I moved to Wellington in 2014 to study at Victoria University, I graduated with a bachelor of Commerce majoring in Accounting and minoring in Geography.

After completing my study, I began a 12-month contract working for a Wellington based community trust. This was a brilliant opportunity and I felt really lucky to have worked alongside such a wonderful group of people.

In my spare time I love yoga, walking in Otari Wilton bush, playing around on the pottery wheel and visiting my family and friends.


Khandallah Nursery School

Samantha Jenssen

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher

Hi, my name is Sammy.

I have always loved animals and plants. But it was having my own three children that cemented my passion for our tamariki. Children are so precious and dependent; I love ensuring their wellbeing and helping them learn. Manaakitanga sums up my priorities in life, which means giving yourself to help another. I value safety but enjoy providing challenges.

My interests include plants, music, swimming, walking, gaming and Science - including Biology, Criminology and Psychology. I completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Bachelor of Business in Management before completing the Postgraduate diploma in Early Childhood Education from Victoria University.

Ellie Southworth

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher

Kia Ora, my name is Ellie. I’ve just moved to Wellington from Dunedin where I completed my Bachelors in Early Childhood Education a year ago. I spent last year gaining as much experience as I could from relieving and working over the winter in a crèche at Cardrona Ski Resort in Wanaka.

I’m passionate about continuously developing my skills as a teacher so I can do the very best for each and every child and their families. In my spare time I love to cook, garden, go on walks, and spend time with friends and family. I have moved to Wellington with my partner Declan and right now we are looking forward to exploring Wellington and putting down roots in our new home.

It is so exciting to be here among all of you at Khandallah Nursery School. I can’t wait to meet those I haven’t yet and get to know all these new faces. 

Christine Tutagalevao

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher

Talofa lava. My name is Christine Tutagalevao, and I am from Wellington. I studied at Te Tari Puna o Aotearoa currently called Te Rito Maioha in Thorndon. I have my degree in Early Childhood Education.

I am very excited to join Khandallah Nursery School and be part of this diverse learning community. I value respectful relationships with infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers. I love spending quality time with them and discovering each child’s uniqueness. Building trust, security, understanding, and care through collaboration with the families and staff demonstrates my respect and professional practice for each child. 

I have a willingness to learn and this has helped me to develop throughout my professional journey so that I create an environment for children to become life-long learners. I am Samoan and have worked with many children and families of diverse cultural backgrounds.  I am creative, a team player, I love to sing and create songs, and I enjoy playing sports.   

Brittany Collins

Khandallah Nursery School - Head Teacher

Hi, my name is Brittany Collins.

I joined the Khandallah Nursery in May 2017 as a teacher, and became Team Leader in August 2017, having been a Head Teacher at another preschool for approximately 5 years.

I have been teaching since I finished my degree back in 2009. I have worked with all ages up to 5, however my calling and my passion lies with the under twos. I have always been fascinated by the developmental stages of infants and toddlers and I adore being part of this fundamental stage for them.

I come from a very small family with only my mum, dad, and one brother. My brother and his fiancé live in London. My mum and dad live in Eastbourne which is where they have been since I was a small child. My Partner and I live in Karori with our beautiful cat Carlie. Nick is a chef and hopes to have his own Burger restaurant in the city, in the not too distant future. We hope to start a family of our own at some point in the coming years, but in the mean time, we are both working hard to ensure when the time is right we can support our growing family.

Being a part of the Nursery team has helped me grow as a teacher, a leader, and a person. I thoroughly enjoy working with this amazing bunch of teachers and love supporting them as well as the children.

Marion Taylor

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher

Kia Ora koutou katoa, My name is Marion and I completed my Graduate Diploma of Teaching (early childhood) from the University of Waikato in 2010, and have been teaching ever since.

I gained my full teaching registration from the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand in 2012. Supporting family/whānau with the care of their child is the greatest privilege. Providing high quality education and authentic relationships is my main focus everyday, as well as have a lot of fun.

I play the Ukulele which I enjoy sharing with children. I live in Newlands with my partner, James. I enjoy gardening and being outside. I’m very lucky to call myself Aunty to a niece and nephew. I’m looking forward to getting to know you all.

Haere rā,


Rhiana Pitts


Hey, everyone! My name is Rhiana Pitts and I am absolutely delighted to be part of the team here at Khandallah Nursery.

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA and for the past 12 years, I’ve been living just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I did the majority of my required schooling in Georgia, which is where I first discovered my passion for working with children. I competed my degree in Early Childhood Education with a focus on Infant/Toddler Development in 2015, but I’ve been working with children for the past 8 years. To this day, my favorite part of teaching is seeing the children’s faces light up when they discover something new.

In my spare time, I like to read, bake, and craft, but above all, I love to travel and explore new places. I try to spend a couple of months in a new country every year. So far, I’ve been to Costa Rica, England, and Spain - and now New Zealand! I’ll be here for a year on a working holiday visa, and so far, I’m loving every minute of it.

A huge thank you to all of you who make up the Khandallah Nursery Family - from the amazing teaching team, to the precious children, and the warm parents and grandparents. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms and smiling faces. Even though I’m over 8,000 miles away from home, you’ve helped to ease the transition.

Haley Paistowe


Kia ora everyone!

I'm Haley and have recently joined the Bears team as a teacher. I am 26 and live with my partner of 7 years, Jimmy. We have no children of our own yet, but we do have furbabies...or should I say a zoo! We have 2 beautiful dogs - Chaos and Athena, 2 cats - Pluto and Polly and a turtle - Bubba G.

In my spare time I love to go opshopping, walk my dogs and spend time with Jimmy and friends. I am excited to work alongside such a great team and I look forward to getting to know all of you and your children.