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Our Leadership Team

Dr Denise Powell

Acting Executive Principal

  • Doctor of Education
  • Adv Dip Tchg (endorsed Education of the Deaf)
  • PG Dip Guidance and Counselling
  • Churchill Fellow (CF)
  • Adjunct Research Fellow (University of Canterbury)

With over 40 years of experience as an educator, Denise has dedicated her career to creating inclusive learning environments and advocating for excellence and innovation in the education sector. She believes keeping at the forefront of new, evidence-based ways of engaging and educating DHH ākonga is important. Her doctoral thesis investigated Deaf Students’ Learning and Social Participation Experiences in Tertiary Education. Between 2012 and 2021, she was responsible for specialist post-graduate training for teachers of the deaf nationally. Denise was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to investigate co-enrolment in Deaf Education and is currently the Executive Editor (Oceania) for Deafness & Education International and co-chair for ICED 2030.


Ginny Neal

Director Education Services

  • Bachelor of Teaching and Learning
  • Advanced Diploma of Teaching
  • Higher Diploma of Teaching
  • Diploma of Teaching
  • Advanced Classroom Expert Teacher endorsement
  • Fully registered teacher

Ginny is a teacher and leader who is highly experienced in leadership and school management. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning, Advanced Diploma of Teaching, Higher Diploma of Teaching, and Diploma of Teaching, and her expertise spans the educational spectrum from early years to transition. As a Kahui Ako Lead Principal, she led collaborative initiatives to enhance student outcomes. Her roles as Head of Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting and her current position as Acting Director of Education Services showcase her expertise in strategic planning and administrative and educational insight. Ginny is dedicated to educational excellence and innovation for our Deaf and hard of hearing learners. Ginny is an experienced school Principal who has been a Principal in a variety of schools since 1995


Andrew Townshend

Director of Communications and Resources

  • BA Linguistics, Dip. NZSL Interpreting

Andrew has extensive experience working in language, communication, and leadership, having worked for ten years as an NZSL-English Interpreter and for 11 years owning and running a successful children's English school in Tokyo, Japan. He joined van Asch Deaf Education Centre in 2015, developing and leading innovations in language learning resources, interpreting services, technology for learning and communication. A Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), Andrew also contributes his language skills as a Sign Language Proficiency Interview Assessor. Andrew leads the teams responsible for IT, Communications, Interpreting, Resource Development, Library and Museums.


Matthew Koning

Director of Corporate Services

  • Bachelor of Business Studies

Matthew commenced working in Deaf Education in November 2014 as the Executive Officer at van Asch Deaf Education Centre. In October 2017, he also took on the role of Executive Officer at Kelston Deaf Education Centre. With the merger of the two Centres in July 2020, he was appointed Director of Corporate Services for Ko Taku Reo—Deaf Education New Zealand and sits on the Board's Finance & Property, HR, and Compliance & Risk Committees.
Before Deaf Education, Matthew had 20 years of experience in a chartered accountancy practice before being appointed executive officer at another specialist residential school.
Matthew has experience and a proven executive leadership and financial and operational management track record.


Sarah de Heer

Senior Leader Planning and Engagement (Teaching & Learning)

  • B.Ed (Bachelor of Education)
  • Dip.T (Diploma of Teaching)
  • Diploma of Child and Adolescent Psychology

Sarah has worked in education since 1996 as a primary teacher in New Zealand and England. Holding leadership positions from her 5th - 11th years of teaching, she has found herself drawn to educational leadership and working with teams. After six years away following the birth of her first and second son, she returned to education, working at van Asch as the Residential Team Leader. Having her oldest son with a rare genetic syndrome, which includes being Deaf, a whole new world of learning and skills has opened up for her. She is grateful to have learned NZSL in the last ten years while working in Deaf Education, and she has a passion for continuing to see improved outcomes for all learners who face additional challenges. Being Associate Principal of van Asch was a highlight, as she could use her full range of skills in this role.


James Townshend

Head of Pedagogy and Professional Development

  • Diploma of Teaching: Primary
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching: Deaf and Hard of Hearing


Lynne Guy

Head of Outreach School

  • Adv Dip Tch
  • Post grad Dip T Ed DHH.
  • Master Spec Ed DHH (endorsed with Distinction)

Lynne has extensive experience in Deaf Education, her career spanning over 30 years of service in this specialist field. She holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist teaching DHH (University of Auckland) and a Master of Special Education DHH (University of Newcastle, NSW). She has also been a parent trustee on the Board of Trustees of a large secondary school in Auckland for 12 years. Lynne has been instrumental in leading teams of teachers and teaching programmes within the primary sector and Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students in satellite Secondary school-level classes for ten years during her employment with Kelston Deaf Education Centre. Most of her career has been in itinerating work, which involved leading teams of itinerating teachers to deliver effective support and programmes to DHH students enrolled in mainstream schools. Her current role is Head of Outreach School, where she demonstrates commitment and passion in leading a large team of Resource Teachers of the Deaf nationwide.


Lisa Sharman

Head of Enrolled School

  • Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching (Deaf and Hard of Hearing) – Auckland
  • Bachelor of Teaching and Learning Degree - Christchurch College of Education

Lisa has been working in Deaf Education since 2001. During this time, she has held different roles, such as Resource Teacher, classroom teacher, and senior teacher of the Deaf. She has worked at van Ash and Kelston Deaf Education. Lisa has a Bachelor's degree in Teaching and a Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching: deaf and hard of hearing.

Lisa has held various leadership positions, culminating as the final Acting Principal at Kelston Deaf Education Centre before its merger with Ko Taku Reo. As a Deaf Leader, she is passionate about ensuring that students receive individualised, targeted, and high-quality learning programmes. She aims to help students embrace their Deaf/deaf identity and succeed on their terms.

Her current role is Head of Enrolled School, overseeing 12 Deaf Bilingual provisions classrooms with a team of Enrolled School leaders, Teachers of the Deaf, Educational interpreters, and Support staff in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.


Nicki Morrision

Head of Residential and Immersion


Nicki has been dedicated to Deaf education as a Residence role since 2005. Her experience as a Residential Leader and Head of Residence has given her a wealth of knowledge about the surroundings and the needs of Deaf students. She is passionate about ensuring that students from around New Zealand can come to the Residence and thrive with positive attitudes. Nicki's understanding of the Deaf community, having grown up in it herself, makes her a valuable asset to the team.

Krista Clifford

Head of Early Years

  • Bachelor of Education BEd
  • Higher Diploma of Teaching HDipTchg
  • Diploma in Education of Students with Hearing Impairment

Krista has worked in Deaf Education as a qualified primary teacher since 1996 and trained as a Teacher of the Deaf. She has extensive knowledge and experience, having worked in many different roles in New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia. As a Deaf teacher, Krista brings not only lived experience but also a deep insight into the lives of Deaf and hard of hearing children. Her passion for Deaf Education also extends to the early years to ensure positive outcomes, and she is thoroughly enjoying her current role as the Acting Head of Early Years. Krista also has a wealth of governance knowledge, having been a board member on the Combined Board (van Asch and Kelston Deaf Education Centres) during the merger and continued her second term on the Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education Board.


Kelly Stanley

Head of Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting

  • BTchLn – Primary
  • University of Canterbury Facilitator micro-credential BSLA: Facilitating Change in Early Literacy

Kelly is a qualified teacher with 15 years of education and classroom experience. As a trained facilitator of the Better Start literacy program and former Deputy Principal, She has led numerous initiatives that drive student success. As a SENCO and head of gifted and talented programmes, she champions inclusive education and talent development. Now, as Head of Curriculum, Kelly continues to lead with innovation, shaping educational pathways for future generations.


Graeme Bisseker

Head of Human Resources

  • Graduate Diploma – Human Resources Management, AHRNZ

After 17 years as a statutory social worker, I moved into social services management, having led local and national agencies. After completing my L7 HR qualification, I have spent 11 years full-time in Human Resources Management in Mental Health and now in Education Services. I have worked in HR for over 20 years in education, health, welfare, construction and agriculture.
I have a history in early childhood education. I have set up two community centres and worked on an early year's national executive covering around 200 centres, providing governance and management advice/support.
I bring sound HR knowledge and broad organisational experience in vulnerable people's workplaces. While working at Ko Taku Reo, I also learned (and am still learning) about working with DHH staff and understanding Deaf Culture. I love the challenge of Human Resources to ensure that our staff are our number one asset.


Sue Capper

Head of Finance

  • Bachelor of Science (Hons), Master of Professional Accounting, Chartered Accountant
  • Programme Management certificate from the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC)
  • Approved Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) Framework

Sue is a Chartered Accountant with a broad range of skills in financial management and accounting, human resources, and office management and administration. She has gained these skills working for various organisations within the small to medium enterprises, not-for-profit, and corporate sectors in New Zealand. Coming from the United Kingdom, Sue also has a background in IT, from business and systems analysis to large-scale project, programme, and change management on core financial systems within the large UK clearing banks and financial institutes.


Noreen Wilson

Head of Resources and IT

  • New Zealand Diploma, Sign Language Interpreting 2011
  • PRINCE2 foundational, project management qualification
  • PRINCE2 practitioner, project management qualification

Noreen, a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), was raised in an environment where New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) was her primary language growing up. Noreen has over ten years of experience as a qualified interpreter in community and educational settings, including enrolled and outreach services. Noreen has developed a deep understanding of effective resource strategies, including being the founder and former Director of EyeFilms, an NZSL translation company. Noreen's experience and passion for project management shines through in her role as Head of Resources and IT, where she leads the Digital Resources, IT, and Library team with her expertise and diverse skill set, which drives innovation and efficiency.


Amanda Everitt

Deaf Strategic Lead

  • MA in Education (ODE)
  • BA/LLB (Sociology and Law)

Amanda Everitt brings a wealth of experience and expertise to Deaf Education. Fluent in five languages, including New Zealand Sign Language, British Sign Language, and French Sign Language, Amanda's journey spans across continents and sectors.

Amanda has a background in project management and e-learning and a Master's in Education, specialising in Online and Distance Education. She has navigated diverse landscapes, from law to media, from youth development to learning technology, working in communications, on awareness campaigns, TV and video presenting, translation, and content creation.

Currently serving as the Deaf Strategic Lead, Amanda is dedicated to enhancing the cultural competency of professionals working with Deaf children. Her passion for fostering understanding and inclusivity drives her leadership, making her an asset to Deaf Education.


Dr Kathie Rifle

Māori Strategic Lead

  • PhD (Māori & Indigenous Education)

Kia ora, I am of Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Porou, English, Scottish, Irish & Swedish descent. I am hearing and learning NZSL. I have been studying and working in Māori Education for over 25 years. My PhD research focused on the implementation of ‘Ka Hikitia’ (the Ministry of Education’s Māori Education strategy) into English-medium schools, and I have enjoyed adapting this research for its application in Deaf education. I am passionate about ensuring that our Māori learners have the opportunity to excel and succeed in their education journey as Māori and within Deaf education, also succeeding as Deaf/Māori Deaf. I am married to Jack, and we live in Kāwhia, where Jack is from. We have four children and have also raised five foster children. I am dedicated to my whānau, wider church whānau, and community. My husband and father are both hard of hearing, and I love working with and serving the Deaf and Māori Deaf communities.