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meet our teaching staff

St Leonards School principal Jo Wilson

Jo Wilson

school principal 
& ruma tōtara teacher

I love it when kids discover things. I love to be there for that 'a-ha' moment.

Even after almost 40 years of teaching Jo still loves nothing more than to see children being curious.

She likes to see them to try new things, to challenge the status quo and ask ‘why?’ a lot. “I love it when kids discover things. I love to be there for that a-ha moment.”

But discovering new things isn’t just for the children. One of the reasons she loves working in small schools is that it’s much easier to try new ideas and adopt new ways of doing things if they work well.

“In a small school it’s easier to move and get things done. In a big school it takes a long time to convince everybody.”

Jo has always enjoyed teaching in country schools and St Leonards School is very much like a country school.


Small schools are a lot less regimented. We don’t have rules about not climbing trees or going barefoot.


“I find parents in country schools want their kids to be involved and doing things, as opposed to being tested all the time to see where they sit.”


The arts and science are where Jo’s passions lie. She happily spends her time taking things apart and putting them back together.

“Science is fun and children enjoy the hands-on aspect of it and being able to see things happen.”


But what Jo enjoys most about teaching is the kids themselves, their sense of humour and the relationships that develop with them.


That’s why she wakes up every morning and looks forward to her day!

secret fact:

I can take an automatic gearbox apart and put it back together again.  I probably should have been a mechanic!

St Leonards School new entrant teacher Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson

ruma rātā teacher

I love being there for those lightbulb moments when they get it.

Sarah came back to teaching later in life and now the children have her hooked.

"I did a lot of relieving which I really enjoyed, but once you have your own classroom and kids there is no going back."

Having children in her class for three years means she gets to know them really well. "Some observations I've made about children and their learning I'm convinced I wouldn't have made just having them for one year."

"I love being there for those lightbulb moments when they get it."

Seeing and helping children learn is what drives her and in particular Sarah loves teaching writing, including creative writing as well as letters and phoenics (letter sounds like th).

Sarah believes learning about how letters and words fit together and the rules they follow can be empowering and is something that has been missing from New Zealand education.


"I'm passionate about it because I wish it had been taught to me instead of just learning by rote." 

"I like teaching creative writing. I love it when they start to think like proper authors and realise there is a process involved and it's painful sometimes."

Sarah also loves that St Leonards School is an Enviro-school and that she was part of the process for the school gaining green-gold status.

"It gives me a lot of pleasure working here and being involved with the Enviro-schools is pretty cool."

secret fact:

I already play the drums, but I taught myself to play the ukulele so I could teach it to children at school.

St Leonards School teacher Alice Kierle

Alice Kierle

ruma tōtara teacher

I think there is a book for every child that is a turning point for them, that helps them to see there's a point to reading.

Alice is so passionate about books and children's reading, she has collected her own classroom library, sorted into popular subjects, genres and authors, to give children instant and constant access to books.

"My biggest joy is seeing kids turn into readers over the course of the year at school. I keep feeding them books until I find one that works. That's pretty much my strategy."

Alice says she has had a few children at previous schools where other teachers have told her 'that kid's never going to read, you're wasting your time'. But she persisted until she found a book the child could connect with and to see those children start reading were among her most rewarding moments.

"I think there is a book for every child that is the turning point for them, that helps them to see there's a point to reading."

After graduating from teacher's college eight years ago Alice has discovered a passion for maths and has challenged herself to change many children's entrenched negative attitudes to maths.

"Maths was a struggle for me growing up so I've been doing a lot of research and reading into people who are working with maths and children. It has opened my eyes to how much of an open and creative subject it is."

Alice did her degree in theatre studies and is also a drama teacher outside of school.

"I love the size of St Leonards School. I love that you know every child, not just the ones in your class."

*Alice is on maternity leave during 2022.

secret fact:

I am building a model of Hogwarts Castle on my hallway table.

Those [Harry Potter] books changed my life because they take you to another world. It's a fantasy world, but anchored in the real world enough that you actually believe it's possible.

our school community

It might be a cliche but the saying 'it takes a village to raise a child' is a philosophy we embrace at St Leonards School.

Community involvement - and not just from our parents and caregivers - is a big part of our school.

Alongside our core teaching staff we have many others who are passionate about children's learning and growth, including:

  • teacher aides and support staff who provide invaluable support to teachers

  • community volunteers who bring in specialist skills and passions

  • parents and caregivers who also share their knowledge and interests

  • and even our own school animal friends who part of the fabric of our school!


One of our school parents, a brain scientist, who came in to talk to children about brains.


Our school chickens, Tui and Turtle, are everybody's favourites! Children feed and water them and let them out of their pen to roam every day as part of their school 'enviro jobs'.

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