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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 lead 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.


Emily Looker (Team Coordinator)

After graduating with a Bachelor of Music, majoring in Popular music, Emily has lived abroad pursuing music. She has released music projects as a solo performer, and with her band, has worked as a vocal tutor and an organiser of events. Her heart beats for the community and in connecting with people. At Teach First NZ, she is excited to use the communication and organisation skills she picked up in the music world to help in the mission in bridging the gap of educational inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand schools. Emily’s role within the organisation is the Operations and Communications Coordinator, this involves a wide mixture of things from storytelling to organising and a little bit of catering on the side. Along with her work with Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu, you will find her recording with her husband (who is also a participant in the 2016 Cohort) or cooking up a storm and feasting around the dining table with friends.


Liam Munday (Recruitment and Marketing 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 (Recruitment and Marketing 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.


Jono Smith (Programme Director)

Prior to joining the Teach First NZ: 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.



Lynne Savage (Associate Director of Programme)

Lynne grew up in a small town in Northern Canada. She immigrated to NZ in 2004 to complete her teacher training here. After teaching Science and Physics at Tangaroa College for six years, her focus shifted to implementing the Health Science Academy (HSA) there as Director for four years.  She lead and supported the HSA students to achieve their academic goals of university study and working in the Health Sciences sector.  Lynne is passionate about travel and has loved exploring this part of the world. Travelling around NZ, Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Fiji has given her insight into the backgrounds of her students through first hand experiences. She is excited to work towards our common goal of minimising educational disparities in communities around Aotearoa New Zealand.


Michelle Johansson (Associate Director of Programme)

Michelle is an academic and a theatre-maker. Her experience includes teaching both at secondary and tertiary levels, as well as Pasifika advisory rolls. She comes to us from her position as a Senior Leader in Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology. In her new role, Michelle is particularly interested in developing a pan-cultural understanding of leadership and in exploring the correlation between socio-economic barriers to equity in education and the lack of genuine cultural responsiveness in our school system. She is passionate about South Auckland, Pasifika Education and Theatre for Change and is proud to be the Creative Director of Polynesian theatre company - the Black Friars.



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.


Deborah George

Deborah is the co-founder and former Chair of Teach First NZ, which she believes is the most meaningful programme she has seen to effect long-term social change through education. Deborah was the Chair of Teach First NZ from it's launch in March 2011 until December 2016. Her career in education spans three decades, in a variety of roles across the commercial, government and not-for-profit sectors. Initially a secondary school teacher, Deborah has owned education businesses in Hong Kong and New Zealand, worked for the Australian Government marketing education services in Asia, and was one of a team of three to expand the Duffy “Books in Homes” programme, an initiative to increase the penetration of books in low socio-economic areas. Deborah spent five years on the board of trustees of Auckland Grammar School as an elected parent representative and was employed for 12 years as Director of Development and Director of Enrolment and External Relations.  In 2011 she helped establish another educational equity initiative, the InZone project, which enables Māori and Pacific Island students to attend top performing state schools.  Deborah is currently Executive Chair of the InZone Education Foundation.


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).


Alistair Nicholson 

Alistair Nicholson returned to New Zealand with his family in 2007 after nearly twenty years abroad working in financial markets. During his time abroad, Alistair was Founding Partner and Chief Investment Officer of Singapore-based equity hedge fund Alcor Investment Management, and Managing Director and Head of Trading for an American investment bank in Hong Kong. In addition, he has also been Chief Executive for Ord Minnett in New Zealand. Alistair began his working career as a teacher at Kapiti College, and for four years was a junior lecturer at Massey University. He also spent six years as Visiting Fellow in the Applied Finance Centre at Macquarie University, Sydney. Alistair is currently Chair of the Board of Trustees at Wakatipu High School where his two children attend. In this position he is often exposed to teacher recruitment efforts, and is excited by the opportunity that Teach First NZ presents to schools serving lower decile communities.


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.


Alumni Advisors to the Board

Lance Cash (Cohort 2015)

Prior to joining the TFNZ programme, he 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, he 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.



Sonya Clarke (Cohort 2016)

Originally from Hawke's Bay, Sonya Clark is a participant in her second year on the Teach First programme, where she teaches English at Edgewater College in Auckland. Before joining Teach First, Sonya completed a BA at Victoria University of Wellington. While at Victoria, Sonya was President of the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association, where she held a variety of governance roles in the tertiary education policy space. She believes that education can be a hugely transformative experience for young people, and enjoys being part of a community of people who are committed to this vision.


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.