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 Tribunal, 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.



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.

Emily O'Connor

Hi my name is Emily.
I am originally from Nelson where I grew up with my parents, two older brothers and a younger sister. 
I moved to Wellington in 2016 to study at Victoria University of Wellington, where I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Accounting and Commercial Law. 
In my spare time I like to spend time with my friends and family. 

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 moved to Wellington with my partner 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. 


Khandallah Nursery School

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.

Heather Stuart

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher
Kia Ora
Ko Heather Stuart tōku ingoa
Ko Esther Piripi raua ko Craig Stuart aku matua
Ko Gabrielle raua ko Ben taku tuakana
Ko Ione ratou ko Jerusha, ko Keren, ko Livi, ko Moana oku teina. Ko Asher, raua ko Moses taku irimoto
Ko Esteban tōku Tāne
Nō Waipawa, Central Hawke’s Bay ahau
Ko Huruiki te Maunga
Ko moko te awa 
Ko ngātiwai tōku iwi
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou Katoa.
Kia ora, my name is Heather.
I grew up in the Hawkes Bay, with a large family of eight. We were home schooled, so I grew up very close to my siblings, learning together about nature and our world. 
I then decided to move to Wellington to study Early Childhood Education at Victoria University, so I can help children to learn and grow with a love of nature and appreciation for life. 
I live in Wellington with my partner, and in my free time enjoy spending time in the garden, looking after the plants, going for walks out in nature, or at the beach. I also enjoy reading, biking, doing art or DIY and spending time with my two beautiful nephews whenever I can.
Another one of my passions is learning about different cultures and languages, although I am Māori, I was brought up away from our Māori land and whānau, but my Mother always made sure that we knew where we came from, and always made an effort to bring us back there whenever we could. Consequently, I am passionate about growing my te reo Māori, and keeping it alive, as well as helping children grow the connections to where they came from and feel proud of that. My partner is from Chile, and having travelled there, the Spanish language and culture holds a place in my heart as well. 
I am nearing completion of my studies, and have become passionate about helping children develop into the best versions of themselves, as they learn who they are and where they belong. I am excited to begin this learning journey at Khandallah Nursery School as I share my knowledge with your tamariki, and you and your tamariki are able to help me learn and grow as well. 

Chelsea Heppell

Khandallah Nursery School - Teacher
Hi, my name is Chelsea Heppell. I am originally from Taranaki, I moved to Wellington when I was seven.
I spent three years in Palmerston North while I studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in psychology and education. I then moved back home while I completed a graduate diploma in early childhood education. I have a brother named Logan who is ten years younger than me.
I find joy in spending time alongside children and listening to their creative ideas. I love seeing children grow and develop. I volunteered at a kindergarten close to where I Iive during my summer holidays during my last two years of college to see if being an early childhood teacher was what I wanted to become, and I quickly decided that it definitely was.       
In my spare time, I enjoy reading, walking, swimming, and listening to music.   
I am looking forward to being a teacher at Khandallah Nursery School and getting to know you and your children.  

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.