Highly qualified staff


Maria Johnson

Managing Director/Owner/Licensee


Hi, my name is Maria. 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 and Diploma of Primary Teaching. In 2006 I then gained my Early Childhood qualifications from the New Zealand College of Early Childhood Education.
In 2002 I established Little School and since then we have continually grown to meet the needs of our families. I am passionate and ambitious about young children discovering their own abilities and providing them with the knowledge, skills and values to make them lifelong learners.  My continuing aspiration is to be a leader in education, and I am thoroughly enjoying this journey.  I am extremely fortunate to work alongside a brilliant team of dedicated teachers and staff at Little School and Nursery School. 
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my four sons, family, and friends.  I also like to exercise and be creative, usually with my dog, Coco. 


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.


Jane Jennings

Staff Support
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 Early Childhood Education 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 (my husband) and I had our two children Sarah and Harry. My tamariki bring lots of joy, love and laughter to our house.  My children both attended Little School when they were young. 
In 2008 I returned to Little School before joining the management team in 2010. 
In my spare time I enjoy running, walking, cooking, travelling and spending time with family and friends.

Anita van der Mespel

PA/Office Administrator
Hi, my name is Anita and I am from a small country town just north of Auckland. I grew up there, although my family and I lived in the UK for nearly 4 years when I was little. 
As someone who is passionate about travel, I spent nearly 7 years working as a Travel Consultant in Auckland and prior to that I have spent the rest of my career in the hospitality industry. I have always been around little people though, be it my much younger cousins, babysitting, or nannying. I moved to Wellington in April 2021 and joined the Little School team. 
I love travelling and enjoy discovering new people, places and food. As a creative person I like to dabble in photography, sewing, knitting and cooking to name just a few things. In my spare time if I am not making something, I will be out exploring the local walking tracks with friends or tucked away with a good book. 

Tarryn Craig


Kia Ora whānau,

My name is Tarryn Craig. I am a born and bred Wellingtonian and live in Khandallah with my husband Tom and our three sons. We have been part of the Little School family for seven years where I have seen my three boys Riley, Finn and Beau, flourish in the empowering environment of Little School. 

I believe children in child care should always feel they are being supported by staff who become an extension of their family, and that parents feel heard and respected by those looking after their child. We stand behind our core values of empathy, trust, honestly, loyalty, respect and empowerment and pride ourselves on upholding these values. 

Finding the right child care isn't just about finding a facility, but about finding a community you love to be a part of. I have made some of my best friends through Little School and revel in the opportunity to get to know more Little School families and to continue building relationships as you embark on a Little School journey with us. 

In my spare time I enjoy travelling, cooking and entertaining, reading and yoga. 



Khandallah Nursery School

Brittany Collins

Khandallah Nursery School - Team Leader

Hi, my name is Brittany Collins. I have worked with 0 – 5-year-olds since graduating in 2009 and was a head teacher elsewhere for 5 years, but I have always been fascinated by the developmental stages of the under twos and I adore being part of this fundamental stage for them. In May 2017 I joined Nursery School as a teacher and became Team Leader in August 2017. I love photography and having the opportunity to capture teaching and learning moments throughout my workday is so exciting!

Being a part of the Nursery team has helped me grow as a teacher, leader, and person. I thoroughly enjoy working with the amazing group of teachers, management team, our tamariki, and their whānau.

My partner Nick and I have a son named Matthew (Matty) who was born in 2020. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with friends and their children, reading, swimming and being in the sunshine.

Brierly McGee

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher-in-Training
Kia ora
I am currently doing my Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education with Te Rito Maioha full time, while working part time at Khandallah Nursery School. Before this, I studied a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Education that I acquired from Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University of Wellington.   
I used to teach drama, dance and musical theatre to children which is where I discovered my love of working with them. I used to do a lot of performing when I was younger, and I like to incorporate aspects of drama, dance and singing into my teaching practice now.
My passion is working alongside tamariki and seeing them develop confidence, self-esteem and whakamana (empowerment) as they explore and learn about the world around them. As Kaiako, I believe that it is our responsibility to encourage and support learners to be curious and competent in their surroundings.
In my free time I enjoy going for walks in the bush or near the beach, skating, dancing, creating art and reading. 


Chelsea Heppell

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher
Hi, my name is Chelsea Heppell. I am originally from Taranaki but I moved to Wellington when I was seven. I studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in psychology and education in Palmerston North. After moving back to Wellington, I completed a graduate diploma in Early Childhood Education. 
Spending time alongside children and listening to their creative ideas gives me great joy. I love seeing children grow and develop. After volunteering at a local kindergarten I found ECE is definitely what I want to do. 
In my spare time, I enjoy reading, walking, swimming, and listening to music.   

Christine Tutagalevao

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher
Talofa lava. My name is Christine Tutagalevao, and I am from Wellington. I studied my Bachelor of Teaching Early Childhood Education at Te Tari Puna o Aotearoa currently called Te Rito Maioha in Thorndon. 
I value respectful relationships with children and I love spending quality time with them and discovering each child’s uniqueness. Building trust, security, understanding, and care through collaboration with families and staff demonstrates my respect and professional practice for each child.  
With my willingness to learn I continue to develop throughout my professional journey so that I can create an environment for children to become life-long learners. I am Samoan and have worked with many tamariki and whānau of diverse cultural backgrounds.  
I am creative and a team player and in my spare time I love to sing and create songs and I enjoy playing sports.   

Daffodils Orlanes

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher
Kia ora! My name is Daffodils and I am from the tropical Island of Bohol in the Philippines. I graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Elementary Education majoring in Early Childhood Education and moved to Wellington, New Zealand in July 2022.
When I was a child of 10 years old, I would play the role of teacher in our games and throughout the years I have continued the role playing with my nephews and nieces. I have always loved teaching, ever since I was small, and my passion has only grown which is why I decided to become an Early Childhood teacher. Since 2010 I have been in teaching roles in the Philippines and in Singapore. Now I am excited to continue my passion, creating more memories at Khandallah Nursery School and becoming a part of children’s education endeavours in New Zealand. 
Outside of work I love spending time with my husband and son (born September 2021). I also enjoy catching up with friends, seeing movies, and exploring new places.