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Our team

Our team

Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu is independently governed and run by a Board of Trustees and staff team.

We work closely with our partner university staff, and with principals and teachers in schools.

Staff team

Jay Allnutt (Chief Executive)

Prior to joining the Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu community, Jay was a secondary school teacher and has held middle leadership roles in two schools serving lower-income communities. He began as Teach First NZ’s Director of Strategy and Operations in 2014, before moving into his current role as CEO in late 2016. Previously, Jay worked for a number of years with our sister organisation, Teach First, in London, where he led the alumni network of over 3,500 teachers and former teachers committed to working towards educational equity. Jay has founded two charities focused on reducing inequality in education, and has an MSc in the Economics of Education and an MA in Philosophy. He is passionate about helping all young people in Aotearoa reach their full potential, and particularly in supporting the Teach First NZ network to be a central part in achieving this. Jay loves a good cup of coffee, and is a big football fan.

Michelle Johansson (Programme Director)

Michelle serves as Programme Director and Kaihapai at Ako Mātātupu: Teach First NZ. She is a Polynesian theatre-maker and mother, post-doctoral scholar and former high school dropout, as well as the Creative Director of the Black Friars Theatre Company. Michelle is blessed to work in the spaces where Education, Equity and the Performing Arts meet for Young Brown Scholars.




Jono Smith (Programme Director)

Prior to joining the Teach FirstNZ: Ako Mātātupu community, Jono was a Deputy Principal at Auckland’s Onehunga High School. Jono has taught there for over ten years, as well as spending short spells teaching in Taiwan and England. Jono believes strongly that all students, regardless of background, should receive high-quality education and support to help them achieve their academic and life aspirations. Jono is excited to be able to bring his experience as a teacher, mentor, and leader within the state education system, to the work of equipping future leaders with the skills and insights they need to effectively engage students in low-decile schools.


Liam Munday (Lead Recruitment Manager)

Completing a Bachelor of Arts in Māori Studies, History and Politics has empowered Liam to explore his Māori decent from Ngatikahu Ki Whangaroa. Since commencing his degree, Liam has also had the opportunity to travel the world representing New Zealand in both indoor and Beach Volleyball. His commitment to Volleyball has allowed him to share his passion for the sport with young New Zealanders as a Kiwi Volley senior coach, as well as a development coach and a high-performance coach for North Harbour Volleyball. Most recently, Liam has worked as a Human Resources Assistant for Getley’s Recruitment and HR Solutions. Liam hopes to bring both a Māori and a student perspective to the Teach First NZ Recruitment team. He is really excited to join an organisation that holds the same values as his own and looks forward to being a part of a national movement for change.

Billy Revell (Programme Manager)

Billy comes from a vastly mixed and rich heritage from which he draws on many cultural knowledges. A Founding and active member of The Black Friars Theater company, Billy is an avid advocate of creating change and providing space for young people to be heard. A former Youth worker for the Pacific Island safety and prevention project; an organisation aimed at ending violence against women and girls, he has a strong understanding of privilege, power and the inequalities that come with it. An actor, writer, director, poet, mentor and more recently father, Billy sees the various hats he juggles as avenues into uplifting the communities he is a part of and has a passion for.


Sophie Jones (Attraction Lead)

Sophie is passionate about addressing inequity, and strongly believes in the potential of education as a platform for inclusion, enrichment and social change. Sophie is an alumna of the Teach First NZ programme, where she taught English at Wesley College. She was initially drawn to the Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu community through its alignment with her core values, and this role will enable Sophie to bring her first-hand experience and insight to work towards a future where all young people in Aotearoa can reach their full potential. Prior to her involvement with Ako Mātātupu, Sophie studied English Literature at the University of St Andrews and American Literature at Purdue University.  She loves poetry, skateboarding and distance running.


Hannah Lees (Kairapu Manager)

Hannah is passionate about facilitating ethical discussions for a just and sustainable society through education. Hannah is an alumna of the inaugural 2013 Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu programme cohort. She has taught English at Papatoetoe High School and Western Springs College: Ngā Puna o Waiorea. Since graduating from the programme Hannah has taken an active role in the Alumni community, helping to launch the first Alumni Retreat and supporting other Alumni work such as teacher buddying and educational policy discussion events. Hannah is currently studying towards a Master of Arts at the University of Auckland where she is researching settler-colonial dynamics, educational decolonisation, and place pedagogy. She works with community groups in the spaces of intersectional feminism, poetry, and civics education.

Kaitlyn Irving (Programme Manager)

Kaitlyn grew up in Singapore, lived in Wales for a couple of years and now calls Aotearoa home, after moving over with her family during her teenage years. She has worked in a variety of fields: media, education and health. She believes that everyone should have a chance to express and be seen for who they truly are, and be given equal opportunities to pursue their goals. She is passionate about using her communications skills to foster purposeful, nurturing and compassionate community. She first learnt about Teach First NZ when her husband, Josh, joined the inaugural cohort as a participant in 2013. As she got to know his fellow cohort members, staff and students, she was inspired by the heart of the organisation, and jumped at the chance to join the team. She considers it a real privilege to be working with the Teach First NZ a second time round, after returning from a 2-year overseas stint. Kaitlyn delights in tropical fruit, thrives in summer and can’t resist a good beat.

Jeremy Downing  (Programme Manager)

Jeremy joined the Ako Mātātupu whānau as a participant in 2014, and completed his training teaching Drama and English. After finishing the two-year flagship programme, Jeremy continued teaching at James Cook High School for four years, alongside redeveloping the Appraisal process for the school, supporting the Provisionally Certified Teachers in 2017, and building Drama as a subject from scratch. This work, alongside his active involvement supporting the Kairapu network, laid the foundation for Jeremy joining the team in 2018. Before teaching, Jeremy studied Film, Theatre and English Literature at Victoria University of Wellington, worked as an Account Manager at a Design and Marketing firm, and performed in a number of musical theatre productions. Jeremy is passionate about community within Education, finding new ways to bring great minds together and develop the best ways forward for our tamariki.




Awi Riddell (Ngāti Porou), QSM

Awi Riddell is a highly respected teacher, leader, and author and holds the Queens Service Medal (QSM) for services to education. Awi has been involved in Māori education for the length of his career, as a teacher at St Stephen's School and the Principal of Te Aute College for 13 years. Following his teaching and school leadership career, Awi worked in Māori advisory and leadership in both the Department of Education and the Ministry of Education, and was instrumental in the launch of Kura Kaupapa Māori. More recently, Awi has been VSA's (Volunteer Service Abroad) Kaumātua since 1996. Awi deeply believes in the importance of education in advancing Māori and Aotearoa New Zealand's interests, and reducing inequality in outcomes.


Board of Trustees

Bernardine Vester (Chair)

Bernardine Vester was the Chief Executive of COMET, a charitable trust of Auckland Council, from January 2000 to September 2011. The Trust was awarded Education Trust of the Year in 2004. Bernardine was named New Zealand’s 2002 Eisenhower Fellow, and in 2006 was awarded the Victoria University of Wellington Holmes Prize in Public Policy for her research on the relationship between local government and education. Before coming to Auckland in 1996, Bernardine worked as a secondary school teacher and assistant principal in the Waikato and Hawkes Bay regions. She was Junior Vice-President of the secondary teachers’ union PPTA for three years and represented the Executive on the Secondary Principals’ Council during that time. Her governance experience includes chairing Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Trust, working with three establishment boards (the Mission Heights schools and Ormiston Junior College) and serving on a number of other community trusts, school and church organisations. She is a contracted provider for the New Zealand School Trustees Association and with the Ministry of Education as an Expert Partner for communities of learning.

Fiona McTavish

Fiona first heard of Teach First NZ while working as the General Manager, Education Workforce at the Ministry of Education.  As a senior public servant, Fiona was responsible for advising the government on education workforce strategies for improving the achievement of all New Zealand students. Since 2013, Fiona has lived and worked in the Bay of Plenty.  She works as the 'General Manager - Strategy' for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, responsible for strategy, policy and planning as well as facilitating regional economic development.  Fiona believes Teach First NZ is making a key difference for students and the New Zealand education system and is keen to contribute to this successful programme. Fiona is married to a secondary school teacher and her children are of Tainui and Te Awara descent.  Her education qualifications include a Masters of Regional and Resource Planning (with distinction) and a Post Graduate Diplomas in Business Administration and Health Economics (both with credit).

Miles Shepheard

Miles has an MA (Hons) in Education. He taught in primary and secondary schools before lecturing at the then Auckland Secondary Teachers College for five years.  In 1985 he began a career as a management consultant and business advisor. Since then he has led many strategic plans in central government, local government and private industry.  He has broad experience in organizational design and restructuring in both the government and private sectors.  He has developed and managed numerous multiparty partnerships for infrastructure contracts. As well as coaching middle and senior managers he is a trained mediator and often helps clients resolve difficult problems and situations.  Throughout his consulting career he has continued to be involved in education working on assignments for the Ministry of Education, and particularly in special education.  Miles believes that the Teach First NZ programme is one of the most encouraging current innovations in bringing about long-term social change through education.


Shaun Sutton

Shaun began the initial scoping work for Teach First NZ in 2010. Prior to returning home to New Zealand, Shaun was a Teach First (UK) participant at a secondary school in London. There he saw first-hand the impact of the programme on achievement in schools and the status of teaching across England, and was inspired to launch a similar programme in Aotearoa New Zealand. Shaun became Teach First NZ’s Founding Chief Executive, and was responsible for establishing key partnerships across the private, public and non-profit sectors as well as the rollout of the two-year leadership development programme and alumni strategy. Shaun also managed Teach First NZ’s hosting of the Teach For All Global Conference in 2015, attended by 400 delegates from over 40 countries. After six years as Chief Executive Shaun stepped down from that role at the end of 2016, following successful completion of the initial pilot phase of the programme and the Minister of Education’s announcement that the programme will be expanded.  Before his time with Teach First in the UK, Shaun worked for two years in London as a Business Analyst, specialising in the telecoms and media markets while on a graduate leadership programme. Shaun completed his undergraduate degree on scholarship in Japan and South Korea, and has an MA from the University of Leeds. He has also completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership at the Institute of Education in London.


Leigh Auton

Leigh Auton grew up in Northland, and has a long-time association with South Auckland as a resident and local government leader. He is the former Chief Executive of Manukau City Council, a position that terminated with the formation of the new Auckland Council on 1 November 2010. He was appointed by central government to the Board of Inquiry for the proposed Men’s Prison at Wiri in 2011, and the Review Panel for Kaipara District Council in 2012. Leigh was appointed Interim CEO at Tauranga City Council, following the unexpected death of the incumbent CEO in 2012. He led a Council restructure programme and assisted with the appointment of the new Chief Executive. From August 2015 – April 2017 he was a member of the Local Government Commission. Leigh has had significant engagement with iwi over a number of decades. Most recently, he has held a portfolio of directorships on behalf of Ngapuhi (including chairing the iwi asset-holding company). Leigh joins the board of Teach First New Zealand Ako Mātātupu with significant experience on the board of a number of NGOs in the community development and education sectors; and as a chartered member of the Institute of Directors. His interest is on needs in our most disadvantaged communities.


Dr. Cheryl Stephens

Dr Cheryl Stephens is of Te Arawa (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Hinekura, Ngāti Makino, Tūhourangi-Ngāti Wahiao) and Taranaki (Taranaki Iwi, Ngāti Moeahu, Ngā Mahanga ā Tairi) descent. Cheryl has over 35 years of experience in education as a teacher, facilitator, teacher educator, researcher and executive leader. She currently serves as Education Commissioner for the NZ National Commission for UNESCO, has recently completed her role on the board of the NZ Council for Educational Research (NZCER) and is a past member of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi Council (a university-level institution). Over the years she has served on various school boards of trustees (Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Matai, Rotorua Boys HS, Te Puke HS), and her long term interests in netball and sport generally have given her insights into community participation and involvement. Cheryl is a member of various research societies and associations and of the Institute of Directors. In September 2016, Cheryl accepted the opportunity to work in Rotorua, for her iwi of Te Arawa, with Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru Education Trust, focusing on whānau (family) engagement in learning.


Tony Caughey ONZM

Tony brings to the board of Teach First New Zealand extensive experience as a company director and corporate manager. A graduate of the University of Auckland and Harvard Business School, his career has included executive roles at three listed New Zealand companies and a major law firm. He is a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Directors with significant directorship experience of listed companies, private companies and a Council Controlled Organisation. He has a long association with the Young Enterprise Trust as both trustee (since 1992) and then chair, and the Play It Strange Trust (promoting music composition in schools) which he currently chairs, as well as operating his strategy consulting business Northern Leading Ltd. He serves as an external advisor on monetary policy to the Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Tony was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to education and business.


Advisors to the Board

Ruby Grant (Cohort 2017)

Ruby joins the Teach First board in her second year of the Teach First NZ programme, and currently teaches Maths at Onehunga High School. Ruby has a background as a statistician, previously working as an analyst for both the Ministry of Health and Statistics New Zealand. She has worked as a youth counsellor and leader, joining the governance board of Youthline Wellington and facilitating training sessions for new counsellors. Ruby is an advocate for queer rights, and has worked extensively as a support particularly for queer and trans youth. Ruby is currently the Auckland region Rainbow representative for the Post Primary Teachers Association Te Whengarua (PPTA) and within this role is an advocate for LGBTQA+ secondary teachers and students. Ruby's strong sense for social justice made the move to teaching a natural career pathway, and she believes that the New Zealand public education system should be world class. She is pleased to be a part of a programme that brings highly qualified professionals into the most in-need classrooms and sees Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu as one of the avenues in addressing the social economic inequity we are facing in our education system today, as well as contributing to closing the educational achievement gap for Māori and Pasifika students.

Lance Cash (Cohort 2015)

Prior to joining the TFNZ programme, Lance worked as an advisor in local government on a NZ-Aid funded project in the Solomon Islands. He brings a range of experiences including youth mentoring, exhibiting fine art photography, political campaigning, NGO management and a year-long contract working in post-conflict Israel-Palestine. Having taught for two years in the rural Far North in Kaikohe, Lance now teaches English at Selwyn College in Central Auckland. With a range of experiences working in diverse cross-cultural contexts, post-conflict zones, rural Māori communities and a childhood in low income communities; he is passionate to see all schools deliver a superb education that serves the real needs and ambitions of those communities.


Irene Folau (Team Member, Member of the Teach For All Student Advisory Council)

Mālō e lelei, my name is Irene Folau and I am of Tongan heritage. I currently live in Auckland, New Zealand where I am studying engineering at the University of Auckland as a first-year student. My hunger for change has opened many opportunities for me to help my peers and community. Last year I was fortunate enough to be a wayfinder as a part of a research project for nine decile one schools in South Auckland, focusing on what it meant to be a leader. Throughout this research project, I built strong relationships with students of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and personalities who along the way reached their full potential. I learnt that my leadership skills weren't the same as those of the western perspective and that it was okay. It made me realise that leadership isn't always the loudest voice at the table but rather the mamas in the kitchen. I am also a performing artist. I sing, dance, and act and am a member of the Black Friars Theatre Company who exist to foster performance places and practices that honour the principles of Teu Le Vā/Tauhi Vā. These are Polynesian ways of being in the world.


Agnes Milford (Team Member)

Agnes supports the Teach First NZ team in a number of roles, and is a former student of Teach First NZ teachers at Tangaroa College in Auckland. She is also a member of the Black Friars Theatre Group, led by Teach First NZ staff Michelle and Billy, and has appeared in a number of productions including Southside Rise and supporting Heads Held High. Alongside studying at University, Agnes works at the Mangere Arts Centre - Nga Tohu o Uenuku.



How Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu was founded

The establishment of Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu in 2011 was a result of collaboration among a number of individuals and groups from across the political spectrum and from all sectors of society, united by a commitment to improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged young New Zealanders. The programme was inspired by the Teach First programme that has operated in England and Wales since 2003, and created for the Aotearoa New Zealand context.

Our two Founders, Shaun Sutton and Deborah George, led the establishment of Teach First NZ and remain involved today. Shaun was Teach First NZ’s founding CEO and Deborah founding Chair from 2011 until the end of 2016.

Shaun began the initial scoping work for Teach First NZ in 2010 when he returned home to New Zealand, having been a participant on the Teach First programme in the UK, teaching in a secondary school in London.

Deborah worked with Shaun to launch the programme from 2010. She learned about the programme in the UK whilst on sabbatical there, and following her return to New Zealand met with Shaun to begin the business planning process and to draw together the initial Board of Trustees.