Skip to main content

Advisory Group

On 15 November, members of an Advisory Group were confirmed by the Commissioner.

  • Jennifer Smith, Chair (Māori representative)
  • Anthonie De Heer, Deputy Chair (former Board member)
  • Chris France (NZSTA representative)
  • Chris Sinclair (elected staff representative)
  • Grace Covey (parent representative)
  • Helen Johnson (parent representative)
  • Jaime Brown (NZSL Board representative)
  • Katie McMenamin (Deaf Children New Zealand representative)
  • Karen Dobson (Deaf Children New Zealand representative)
  • Sam Te Maari (Turi Māori representative)
  • Theresa Cooper (Deaf Aotearoa representative)​​​​​​​
  • Denise Powell (Acting Executive Principal)
  • Mike Rondel (Commissioner)
  • Cindy Cascalheira (Secretary)

Jennifer Smith, Chair

Māori representative

I am of Ngāti Whātua, and Ngāpuhi descent from the Tai Tokerau. I reside in Ōtautahi with my partner Joel and two kurī. I'm a registered primary school teacher and am Hard of Hearing. I'm a lecturer in Māori Education at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha (University of Canterbury) as well as a co-Lead of culturally responsive education Te Kāhui Pā Harakeke: The Child Wellbeing Research Institute. I advocate for ōritetanga (equity) in every sphere of education thus, my research focuses on sociocultural approach to education, inclusive cultural pedagogy, culturally responsive teaching and learning for diverse learners, and cultural well-being.

Anthonie De Heer

Deputy Chair (former Board member)

I’m married to Sarah de Heer we have two boys, Theo (15) and Codie (13). I live in Christchurch and am very involved with my children's sports, from coaching Codie's soccer team to supporting Theo with his archery. Theo is the main reason I joined Ko Taku Reo's board as a parent representative. My main aim is to present a parent's point of view on the education of deaf students in New Zealand and give all students the best opportunity to fulfil their potential. I hope to continue our work on the board with the advisory group.

Chris France

NZSTA representative

I've been a governance adviser for many years, recently employed by NZSTA as a governance adviser for the last 8 years.

I worked with successive boards of Ko Taku Reo going back the past ten years. Previous years worked on good governance practices as well. I'm honoured to be asked to support the school as it moves forward.

Chris Sinclair

Elected staff representative

Grace Covey

Parent representative

I'm a Deaf mother of two gorgeous Deaf kids and a Communications Manager at Kara Technologies. I am incredibly passionate about Deaf education due to personal involvement, and I am committed to our wider community of student learners and staff and their wellbeing. I worked for Deaf education from 2014 to 2021 and was an ex-student of KDEC in the 1990s. I will support the board with its missions and strategic direction to ensure our mahi benefits our Deaf ākonga.

Helen Johnson

Parent representative

Tēnā Koutou Katoa,
Ko Tainui tōku waka
Ko Pīrongia tōku Maunga
Ko Waipa tōku Awa
Ko Kawhia tōku Moana
Ko Ngāti Maniapoto tōku Iwi
Ko Pourahui tōku Hapū
Ko Te Awanui te Whare
Ko Puna Aroha Puna Kai te Wharekai
Ko Hīona tōku Marae
Ko Helen Johnson tōku Ingoa
E noho ana ahau ki te poho o Maniapoto

My name is Helen Johnson married to Jade Johnson. I'm on the Advisory Group as a parent representative. I have a daughter who was born profoundly deaf and is in Year 7. The youngest of our four children is attending Kelston Intermediate in Auckland; she is away from home during the school term while we remain in Te Kuiti for work and home; we long for the school holidays to have her home with us.

I've been working in Education as a Learning assistant with a background in NZSL supporting hard of hearing children in schools and governance since 2016.

Previous Presiding member on the board of trustees at a local school.

I am a past co-opted member of the combined board of deaf education in 2019 and would like the opportunity to return to further my passion in a governance role.

I hope our youth discover their strengths and talents to believe in themselves to explore and achieve to the best of their ability.

I believe a responsive curriculum, inclusive and safe environment, caring leadership, positive teacher morale and a board that supports the principal, senior leader\leaders and Teachers' professional learning are fundamental to all students’ progression.

I look forward to meeting everyone.
Nō reira tēna koutou, tēna koutou, tēna koutou katoa.

Jamie Brown

NZSL Board representative

I'm currently on the committee as the NZSL Board representative. I am a qualified NZSL tutor having taught NZSL for over 10 years and currently work as an NZSL interpreter. I have been involved in the Deaf community for over 15 years in various roles and now live in Auckland.

Katie McMenamin

Deaf Children New Zealand representative

Kia ora, I’m Katie McMenamin, the president of Deaf Children New Zealand. I am hearing and can sign. I am a health equity researcher, and my PhD was based on identity development in children with cochlear implants. I have just completed Level 5 Te Reo through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

I am a parent of a 9-year-old profoundly deaf child with bilateral cochlear implants. She attends a mainstream school in our rural area.

Deaf Children New Zealand is a parent-led, volunteer organisation that supports parents and families of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. Our focus is on supporting parents, families and whānau, and ensuring that Deaf and Hard of Hearing children have appropriate access to the education curriculum and social experiences within the schooling environment.

Karen Dobson

Deaf Children New Zealand representative

My name is Karen Dobson, I'm hearing and can sign. Though I’m not fluent, I learn daily from my son and the Deaf community. I live in Christchurch and I’m the representative for Deaf Children NZ.

I am a parent of a 14-year-old deaf child who attends Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education. He has bi-lateral hearing aids with severe hearing loss and is fluent in NZSL, which is his preferred first language. He has attended Ko Taku Reo since Year 5 and attends Hillmorton High School Deaf Provision in Year 9.

Deaf Children New Zealand is a parent-led, volunteer organisation that supports parents and families of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. Our focus is on supporting parents, families and whānau, ensuring that Deaf and Hard of Hearing children have appropriate access to the education curriculum and social experiences within the schooling environment.

Sam Te Maari

Turi Māori representative

Tena Koutou Ropu Tohutohu Ko Taku Reo !
Ko Tararua te maunga
Ko Ruamahanga te awa
Ko Onoke te roto
KoTakitimu te waka
Ko Ngai Kahungunu ki wairarapa te iwi
Ko Ngati Hinewaka te hapu
Ko Kohunui te marae
Ko Te Maari toku whanau
No Otautahi ahau
Ko Haamiora Samuel Te Maari taku ingoa.

I have six children; all are coda ( children of deaf adults). I'm a present member of Ropu Kaitiaki (New Zealand sign language board) and Royal Commissions (Deaf Reference Group) as well as Ko Taku Reo board of trustee 2021.

Tangata iwi tena koutou tena koutou tena ra kaotou katoa.

Theresa Cooper

Deaf Aotearoa representative

I am Deaf and use New Zealand Sign Language in my daily life. I am a mother of two hearing sons. My life experiences in education with my specialised skills in governance and NZSL/Deaf Culture will shape how I can contribute constructively to this Advisory Group. I am well known in the Deaf community for my leadership and advocacy for the community's needs and also NZSL accessibility in the arts sector.