Back to top
Our team

Our team

Teach First NZ 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)

Jay is a former secondary school teacher, and has worked in middle leadership roles in two schools serving lower-income communities. He joined Teach First NZ as Director of Strategy and Operations in 2014 after a number of years working with our sister organisation, Teach First, in London. Jay has founded two charities focused on reducing inequality in education, and has an MSc in the Economics of Education from the Institute of Education at University College London.




Emily Looker (Operations & Communications Coordinator)

After graduating with a Bachelor of Music, majoring in Popular music, Emily has lived abroad pursuing music as well as being a band leader, vocal tutor and a keen organiser of events. Her heart beats for community and connecting with people, and so here she finds herself amongst our vibrant team, excited by the challenge of putting the communication and organisation skills picked up through the music world to now be part of the mission of bridging the gap of inequality in our New Zealand schools. Emily is most alive when she’s writing new tunes, cooking up a storm, surrounded by people or out in the wilderness- put all of those together and you have her absolute dream.


Steph Curley (Recruitment & Selection Manager)

Prior to joining Teach First NZ, Steph worked as a solicitor in the employment and litigation team at DLA Piper. This often involved working on educational law issues. Prior to this role, she worked as in-house counsel for an educational not-for-profit. These experiences have exposed Steph to a strong understanding of the education system of New Zealand as well as the stark disparity that currently exists between the education of New Zealand children. One thing Steph is particularly passionate about is that all New Zealanders are given an equal opportunity to access education and the life outcomes that come from a good education. Steph is really happy to be working with such a great team towards a goal that she is passionate about and looks forward to seeing the effects of the Teach First movement and all it entails. In her spare time, Steph can be found enjoying the outdoors and the delicious food Auckland has to  offer.


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.


Jono Smith (Director of Teacher Preparation & Support)

Jono has been seconded to Teach First NZ for one year, from his role as Deputy Principal at Auckland's Onehunga High School. Jono is an experienced High School teacher and senior manager, having taught for over eleven years at Onehunga High School, 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 Teacher Preparation & Support)

Lynne Savage completed her teacher training as a new immigrant to NZ after completing her Honors Bachelor of Medical Science in Canada. She grew up in a small, rural, bilingual town in Northern Canada and loved the contrasts and challenges of beginning her teaching career at a decile 1 south Auckland school, learning on the job about the interrelatedness of teaching, learning and culture. She taught Science and Physics at Tangaroa College in Otara for 10 years. She received a Woolf Fisher Lead Teacher Scholarship to complete her MEd in 2012 studying the implementation of Academic Counselling. Her focus for the last four years has been as the Director of the Health Science Academy. She implemented and directed the academic and pastoral support for motivated Pasifika and Maori students to prepare them for studying Health Sciences at university and careers as health professionals in counties Manukau and further afield. Integrating school, family and community support has successfully led two cohorts of students into tertiary studies, with the fifth cohort recently beginning their own pathway. She has a passion for travel and some of her explorations have been around NZ, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands. This has given her insight into the backgrounds of her students through first hand experiences. She is excited to work towards a common goal of minimising educational disparities in our local communities.


Michelle Johansson (Associate Director of Teacher Preparation & Support)

Michelle is an academic and a theatre- maker,  she is also the Pasifika facilitator for the English online communities, a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland and a staunch advocate for the breaking down of stereotypes through performance. Her experience includes teaching both at secondary and tertiary levels, as well as Pasifika advisory rolls and she comes to us from her position as a Senior Leader in Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology.

Michelle's research recognizes that as a lens through which young people view themselves, the world, and their place in the world, schools are a powerful means of either affirming or undermining positive cultural identity and self-image. In her new role, she is particularly interested in developing a pan- cultural understanding of leadership and in exploring the correlation between socio-exonomic 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. Her achievements in the role includedthe development of an intergenerational family learning model that meets international best practice. 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. Her governance experience includes leading the establishment board of the Mission Heights schools in Flat Bush, and serving on a number of local community trusts, school and church organisations. 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.

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.

David Glover 

David Glover is Principal of Creative Strategies, a leadership and business development consultancy. Prior to this David was CEO of Learning Media, a state-owned enterprise and the largest educational publisher in New Zealand. He joined Teach First NZ because of its commitment to addressing educational inequality. David is a seasoned leader with over 20 years’ experience at CEO and board level. He began his career in London as an award-winning copywriter for Time-Life Books, then went on to become Creative Director and CEO of McCann Erickson Worldwide advertising agencies in the U.K., Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand. In 2002 he acquired and managed the country’s most respected business training company, David Forman, which he sold in 2008. David holds an M.A. from Jesus College, Cambridge University, is a Fellow of the NZ Institute of Management, and has held a number of commercial and not for profit directorships.

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 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 at 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.


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.


About 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 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.

Deborah's biography is included in the 'Board of Trustees' section above.