Who’s Who at Nova

Faculty Qualifications

  • Bachelor in Teaching and Learning University of Canterbury
  • Diploma of Teaching ECE New Zealand College of Early Childhood Education
  • Diploma of Teaching and Learning
  • Degree Primary Teacher Training
  • Aperfield Montessori Diploma in Early Childhood Education
  • TIME Montessori Diploma 6-12
  • MWEI Diploma in Montessori Studies
  • AMI Diplomas 3-6 and 6-9
  • Christchurch College of Education Higher Diploma of Teaching
  • M.Ed. in Montessori Integrative Learning
  • Toronto Montessori Institute
  • Montessori Primary at Centro Internazionale Studi Montessoriani in Bergamo
  • BSc Human Nutrition- Glasgow Caledonian University
  • BS Communications
  • Post Graduate Diploma in Publishing
  • Graduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning (Primary) –Christchurch Coll of Ed
  • All teachers hold a Certificate of Registration as a teacher in New Zealand

Pauline Matsis, Montessori Teacher (Primary), Co-Head of School and Trustee

Before the beginning of my Montessori journey thirty three years ago, I worked with children and adults with Special Needs. When my two sons were born, they became the catalysts for joining with Marsha in founding Nova Montessori. I saw the importance of schools in shaping children’s lives, intellects and world views, and readily embraced Montessori’s approach to education. It has been an amazing journey of discovery ever since.

Nova has played a dominant role in this wonderful journey and I feel incredibly privileged to be working alongside such amazing children, educators, administrators and parents, all of who participate in the ongoing dialogue of life at Nova Montessori.

“The purpose of life is to obey the hidden command, which ensures harmony among all and creates an ever better world. We are not created only to enjoy the world, we are created in order to evolve the cosmos.”    – Maria Montessori

Shubha Narayan, Montessori Teacher (Children’s House), Co Head of School and Trustee


It was over 11 years ago I first walked into Nova Montessori School as a visiting teacher, it was at that point I decided to not only be a visitor, but to actually teach at Nova. Through my commitment to the children and the Montessori approach to education, life and learning I finally realised my dream of being here at Nova.

Nova is the one place I come to, to be rejuvenated as a Montessori teacher and as a human being. It not just touches my heart but the hearts of many. It is a place of learning, which invites the potential of all children and parents to unfold. Nova brings to one’s conscious awareness the inter-relationship of it all. It is an educational community of teachers and learners.

I am a Montessori early childhood and primary trained teacher. I work with children of all ages in the school. I have three children two of who went to Montessori early childhood services, and my youngest attended Nova primary school and is currently studying at Otago University.

Scientific observation then has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.”   – Maria Montessori, Education For A New World

Jamie Cortez, Montessori Teacher (Children’s House)

Kia ora! Ko Jamie Rea Cortez ahau. I am Jamie Cortez and myself and my family migrated from the Philippines to New Zealand in 2008. Having grown up with five siblings and five nieces and nephews, being in a large group and caring for several children comes naturally to me.

Gaining teaching qualifications, combined with my deep love of Montessori, helped me to further understand how to guide and nurture children’s natural laws of human development. I then went on to discover Nova Montessori and can say hand on heart that it is an incredible privilege to have this opportunity to be part of such a unique and true Montessori community as I see and experience the deep real magic of Montessori everyday with the children and families.

“There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community.”   – Dr Maria Montessori (as cited in Elizabeth Hainstock, 1986, p. 81 – The Essential Montessori)

Maree Hawtin-Morrow, Montessori Teacher (Children’s House)

In a previous life I was a tailoress for a designer in Auckland. When my husband and I moved back to Christchurch with our young family I started teaching preschool music classes and this led me to studying early childhood education.

Ten years ago I walked into a Montessori classroom while I was on teaching placement and I fell in love with the Montessori approach to life and learning. Up until that point I hadn’t experienced the peace and respect that I observed that day in any early childhood setting I had previously been in.

I therefore went on to follow my passion and continued with my Montessori studies which lead to achieving a Montessori Diploma. I haven’t looked back.

I feel privileged and honoured to now be working in the beautifully prepared indoor and outdoor environments of Nova Montessori. It is here, each day I am reminded of Montessori’s words of:

“The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.” (The Absorbent Mind)

Mireille Nel, Montessori Teacher (Primary)

My passion for working alongside children grew from a visit to the preschool I had attended, as a Careers Day opportunity. I knew then that working with children was my calling. I studied Montessori 0-3 and 3-6 in Pretoria, South Africa and a few years later came to live and work in New Zealand where I met my husband. After having our two children, I continued working in Early Childhood environments, where I went on to gain a New Zealand teaching degree.

As my children grew older, I became fascinated with Montessori Primary education, and chose to extend my learning by studying 6-9 and 9-12 Montessori, gaining qualifications in Montessori including NZ primary teacher registration. Today I am still equally fascinated, and love working and learning with primary aged children.

At Nova, I feel that I can learn, grow, and teach/guide in the best way imaginable. Nova feels profoundly like my true calling. I am very privileged to work alongside my colleagues and the Nova children and families who contribute in making Nova the special environment it is.

“The whole labour of life, which fulfills itself subject to its laws and brings beings into harmony, reaches consciousness under the form of LOVE.” – Maria Montessori

Jan Robertson, Montessori Teacher (Primary and Children’s House)

My journey in the field of education began when my own children started attending a Montessori preschool about 14 years ago. Witnessing the incredible impact of the Montessori philosophy ignited
a passion within me to explore this approach further. As a result, I pursued my qualifications for a Diploma in Montessori for 3-6-year-olds and a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education. The Montessori
philosophy inspires me deeply by promoting independence, curiosity, and a love for learning in children. I have extensive experience teaching in Montessori early childhood centres and primary state schools. I am also a trained, qualified and NZ registered state trained primary teacher.

I am truly honoured to be a part of the Nova Montessori school and Children’s House community.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 24, chapter 3).

Nicola Gresson, Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Hello, my name is Nicola Gresson, (Nicky), and I am very happy to introduce myself as a guide/teacher, (alongside Leah Brooks), for the 9-13 class at Nova Montessori School.

My professional background in education spans 20 years in a variety of roles. Originally trained as a New Zealand state primary teacher, I taught at a private girl’s school in Wellington, and then a co-ed state school in North London. I have also worked internationally as an ESOL teacher with children aged from 3-16years, in Switzerland, Turkey and South Korea.

My journey at Nova Montessori School began in a voluntary capacity in 2001 for what was then a small satellite class in New Brighton, called Nova New Brighton Montessori Primary School. I work for a term with the then principal, Vicky Lumsden and was so inspired by this community of learners that I decided to train in Montessori primary education. I gained a qualification through the Montessori Institute of Education was fortunate to continue in a more permanent role within this beautiful school, working with both in the 6-9 class with Pauline Matsis and in the 9-13 classroom with Marsha Morgan and Phil Gang, and now with Leah Brooks, for a total period of twelve years.

I continue to be passionate about and deeply committed to the educational philosophies and practices developed by Dr Maria Montessori and her son Mario Montessori.

“Our care of the children should be governed not by the desire to make them learn things but by endeavouring always to keep burning within them the light of intelligence.” – Dr Maria Montessori

Leah Brooks, Montessori Teacher (Primary)

When my daughter was born, my reading about parenting and education led me to the Montessori approach, and my Montessori journey began. Alongside my daughter’s Montessori early childhood experience, I completed my Montessori early childhood training. Once she entered Montessori primary, I also commenced my own training in Montessori primary and intermediate education. I was motivated by my love of learning and my desire to inspire this love in both my children and others.

My association with Nova has spanned 15 years in a number of roles, both as a parent and a staff member. It have been a joy to be a part of the lives of so many Nova families.

In addition to my work at Nova, I also providing editing assistance and support to students enrolled in the Institute for Educational Studies Master of Education in Montessori Integrative Learning. It is a privilege to encourage and support a new generation of Montessori teachers.

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’” – Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind

Nanette Trewinard, Montessori Teacher (Primary)

I arrived in Christchurch in 2003 from Scotland to study for my Graduate Diploma of Teaching. I came to love New Zealand, married a Kiwi and now we have two wonderful young children. From the moment I observed in my first Children’s House, I knew the Montessori approach was what I wanted for my children and for myself as teacher. In 2013 I began to study for my Montessori Diploma and was so fortunate that part of this took place at Nova. From the sense of peace and opportunity that I felt on simply being in the classrooms to the nurturing and welcome embrace of the Nova people, I knew I wanted to be part of this inspiring community.

We serve the future by protecting the present” – Maria Montessori,  The Secret of Childhood

Magenta Wilde, Permaculture Gardening Teacher

Magenta Wilde is Nova’s permaculture gardening teacher. Magenta is a local woman with a wide range of skills and interests. Magenta studied and practiced permaculture for many years and loves sharing her knowledge with young people. She also studied natural medicine and nutrition and includes these skills in an holistic approach to gardening and health. Magenta not only supports the children by introducing all aspects of permaculture gardening, but teaches the children essential life skills for the future combined with the love of learning in the natural environment. Magenta is a much respected and sought after permaculture advisor and teacher.

The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” – Maria Montessori

John Allen, Garden Creator and Consultant

We attribute the beautiful grounds at Nova to the years of dedication and care from John Allen. To learn more about John please visit the link below.


“A child, more than anyone else, is a spontaneous observer of nature” – Maria Montessori

Mark Matsis, Treasurer, Nova Montessori Trust

My university education was in accountancy but I had little interest in pursuing Accounting as a full time career. Maybe thirty-three years ago I attended a talk with Pauline on Montessori Education. The talk by Binda Goldsbrough inspired me into a life as a Montessori teacher. It seemed to me that if even half of what she said was true, it was a wonderful thing. Yet, I took nothing for granted and had to find out for myself what was true. One could speak of developing inner discipline within children but would it work within the classroom? I gained my teaching diploma (ECE) and Montessori diploma and spent my next twenty years working in a Montessori preschool. I was completely inspired in my work. What I discovered was that what needed changing most was inside myself. Montessori education and working alongside children was the perfect catalyst for that. I left Montessori education ten years ago but the inner work continues and I am still excited to explore the frontier and the, ‘what next’ in education. Being involved in the background of Nova school and alongside Pauline, Shubha and Phil gives me the opportunity to examine those questions.

Guy & Suzanne Pope-Mayell, Co-Trustees, Nova Montessori Trust

Guy & Suzanne bring their unique and collective strengths to the Board of Trustees of Nova Montessori School and Early Childhood Centre. Suzanne’s passion for Montessori education commenced as a teacher in 1982 at the Courtyard Montessori Preschool and later saw her set up Abberley Park Montessori. In 1990 she founded Casa Dei Bambini Foundation School and was principal for the school’s first decade. Guy brings to the board his vast experience from co-founding Cookie Time and his life-long involvement in business. And later in 2006 with Suzanne, in establishing the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand. Their four children have benefited from Montessori education including their youngest who attended Nova.

“Love is conceded to humans as a gift that is directed for a certain purpose and a special reason, and in that, it resembles everything lent to human beings by the cosmic conciousness.”
– Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.

Philip Snow Gang, Advisor to the Nova Montessori Trust


Professor Gang is Academic Dean for the Master of Education (M.Ed.) program and author of Rethinking Education and Conscious Education: The Bridge To Freedom. He is part of the Core Faculty and founder of TIES. He is also the developer of Our Planet, Our Home, a hands-on material for exploring relationships on Earth. He also appears in Russell DeCarlo’s anthology, Towards a New World View: Conversations at the Leading Edge.

After a ten-year career in engineering and business, Gang returned to school to become a Montessori teacher. He has been a Montessori school head, consultant and educator of teachers. In 1978 he helped initiate the National Erdkinder Consortium – a group dedicated to founding Montessori secondary schools.

In the early 90’s Gang was on the faculty of California Institute of Integral Studies as a professor-mentor to students engaged in doctoral studies in the School of
Transformative Learning. This was the first collaborative on-line program of its kind.

Today, Gang’s major interest is exploring eco-cosmological patterns and their implications for the human journey.

Philip Snow Gang Ph.D.AMI 6-12 Training 1973AMI 3-6 Training 1982

Marsha Snow Morgan, founder of Ripple Educational Community, later to be known as Nova Montessori School, also MA and Core Faculty and Co-founder of TIES (1943-2017)


Professor Morgan worked as a Montessori teacher, school director, educator of Montessori teachers, consultant, and workshop leader. These initiatives took her through Europe, South America, North America and the Pacific Rim. In New Zealand she worked on the Organic Cities Trust at Christchurch and was instrumental to creating and facilitating the Kids Edible Garden Project – a program to place permaculture gardens in government schools. She was the 1989 co-founder of Nova Montessori School, in Christchurch.

The main focus of her work was perceiving systemic patterns in the design and creation of learning communities. She explained, “We are storytellers, myth-makers and symbol designers. Addressing the present planetary crises through Montessori education may provide new possibilities for Gaian renewal.” Her graduate thesis was titled: “An Eco-genesis for Education: A Context for Learning.”

Philip and Marsha are also the creators of EarthTies, a virtual web-conferencing network promoting “The Great Work”.