Kāinga Wheke 2019

Welcome to the Kainga Wheke website

We are currently the year 0 - 3 Kainga. Our Kainga animal is the wheke (octopus). Wheke is a curious creature who loves exploring their environment by using the 5 senses. They are playful and interactive, spending time discovering by themselves and with others. Wheke are kaitiaki - meaning they are guardians. We support our tamariki in learning to discover how their world works and exploring relationships within and outside our Kura (school).

We have 6 Hapu groups in Kainga Wheke, led by - Asha Bhatia, Kate Davison, Kelly Gaston, Denise Graham-Wendy Ness, Toni Howard and Yasmin Mohamed . Our learners are also lucky to have Michael Davidson take them for some exciting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths) learning once a week and we will surely have lots of visits from our wonderful senior leadership team - Diana Wilkes, Kirstin Anderson-McGhie, and Wendy Ness .

Kainga Wheke is located below Kainga Popoto and has great indoor-outdoor flow into our outdoors areas - its super handy for pick up and drop off too!

In Kainga Wheke learners will have opportunities to experience joyful learning and explore their own passions and interests through play based learning. This will go hand in hand with Deliberate Acts of Teaching in order to cater for specific learning needs.

On this page you can find out a bit about the learning coaches in team wheke. We aim to be as transparent as possible you will find all of our learning design on our site - have a click around and please let us know if you'd like anything else added.

Kate Davison

Hi! I’m Kate, one of the learning coaches at Matua Ngaru School. I love science, maths, art, animals, the outdoors, building and making things, reading, design, and digital technology. I live with my partner Dan, our two cats, and my pet rats, as well as my brother Pete and our friend Glen. Our house is all the way over in Grey Lynn, but next year we will be building a house at Bethells Beach and we’ll (hopefully) move out west in 2020.

I think learning should be fun and hard! I love feeling like I’m stretching my brain and really focusing on a tricky problem, I enjoy working on projects and creating new things. I hope you like making your brain buzz too, and that you’re just as excited as I am for a great 2019 at Matua Ngaru School. It’s so nice to be starting all together, that way we’re all in the same boat - I’m a ‘new kid’ just like you and everyone else!


Kelly Gaston

Kia ora, my name is Kelly Gaston, I am delighted to be a member of the Matua Ngaru team and look forward to the incredible journey ahead with the tamariki. I have been teaching for 10 years at Riverhead School where I have taught years 3 through 6 and have been lucky enough to enjoy the opportunity to work in a collaborative environment for some time now. I have lived most of my life in Auckland where I currently live with my husband and two children.

I have a love of learning and gained a Bachelor of Business. After working in the private sector for a few years, I decided to follow my passion for teaching and completed a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. I have a dedication for Literacy and Digital learning and have a Certificate in Computing. I am also a Google Educator and Apple Teacher.

In my spare time, I enjoy writing and reading as well as spending time with the family and friends. I look forward to working with whanau and the community.


Yasmin Mohamed

Kia ora koutou, my name is Yasmin Numan and I am also known by my married name of Mrs. Mohamed. I am very excited to be one of the foundation learning coaches at Matua Ngaru School.

I am originally from Egypt with roots in Palestine and Italy. I speak Arabic fluently and have some beginner French knowledge. My parents migrated to NZ in 1994 when I was 10 years old and I have known NZ to be my home since. I have an 18 month old son who keeps me on my toes and I have a deep love for travel and exploration.

Having completed a degree in Marketing and Information Management, I started off working in Finance. Then I realised I wanted to do something more enriching that helped others. I’ve always had a passion for working with children and decided to go back to university and complete the Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching.

Since then, for 6 years, I taught both Year 7 and Year 8 classes at Waikowhai Intermediate School where I was the ICT Lead teacher as well as the yearbook editor and coordinator. Over the last year, I worked a little closer to home in composite Year 7 & 8 classes at Bruce McLaren Intermediate School. I also did some relieving at primary schools and loved working with the younger students.

I look forward to getting know and work alongside the community and whānau of Matua Ngaru School.


Denise Graham

In term 3 Denise and Wendy will lead the Graham-Ness Hapu (formerly Lethbridge-Graham, formerly Micheel Hapu)!

Hi I am Denise Graham and it is wonderful to teach at Matua Ngaru School.


I have been a teacher for almost 6 years now and have spent the last 4 teaching years 0-4 on the North Shore and I spent last year down in Taupo teaching. I am passionate about play-based learning and I am currently studying to become an Educational Psychologist. Before I became a teacher I was working in the equine industry. I have a Bachelor in Applied Science and an equine bodyworker certificate. I trained racehorses in Canada and bred standardbreds in Christchurch. I feel now have the best of both worlds with a job that I love and a hobby that’s a passion too.


In my spare time I ride my horse Flame, who I have had since she was a foal. We like to do a bit of dressage and lots of endurance. I like to get outdoors and explore the beautiful native bush or challenge myself to learn something new.



Kia ora tatou, hello everyone! My name is Wendy Ness, the learners call me Mrs Ness. I have the wonderful privilege of teaching some of the Wheke learners for Literacy and Maths across the middle part of the school day.

I have a varied role here at MNS as I am one of the Deputy Principals atMatua Ngaru. Prior to being at Matua Ngaru I was Deputy Principal at Henderson

Primary School for just over 4 years. My teaching career has spanned 25 years more or less and I have predominantly taught in West Auckland and on the North Shore.

Mr Ness and I have 2 daughters, Erica who is 21 and Hannah who is 18.We all live on a 10 acre block in the Waitakere Ranges. We have a breeding flock of sheep, hens and bantams for eggs and food scrap recycling, 2 cats and a dog. We love our home and community! When I am not at school, I enjoy being with my animals, dog walks, gardening and exploring the countryside. I love reading and hand crafts.

I was bought up in Kumeu, attended Huapai school then Massey High School. My parents were grape growers for Nobilo Wines. My mum still lives in the Kumeu area. I am loving being back in the area of my childhood and helping to grow Matua Ngaru School and our wonderful community of learners!

Wendy Ness

Toni Howard


Hi! I am Toni Howard and I am dedicated to working with children and in education. After many years teaching, my enjoyment in this field is no less, nor is my energy or passion. I am a firm believer that “it takes a village to raise a child”. I am very interested in developing collaborative relationships with colleagues and encouraging parental and community involvement in children’s learning. Education today is about supporting our students gain skills which will help them achieve success in an ever changing world. This makes education a constant changing and growing environment as well, and one that I thrive in.

I have lived in Huapai for over 20 years with my husband Russ. My teenage sons were born here and attended Huapai District School. I have been teaching for 30 years mainly in Years 0-2. I taught at Huapai for nearly 10 years after returning to teaching after having my boys. The last two years I have been at Oteha Valley School in Albany where I have become passionate about teaching and learning through play.

I am so excited to be returning home to teach and I know I am going to see lots of familiar faces at Matua Ngaru as well as meeting new families.



Hi, my name is Asha Bhatia and I am thrilled to say that this is my 14th year in the field of education. It has been an amazing experience all these years, being a Teacher and an Academic Coordinator in India. I am excited to continue this seamless journey along with the Matua Ngaru family.

My passion for engaging productively with young learners encouraged me to complete my Bachelor of Education and Masters of Arts in Education courses. Being a Google Educator, I envisage to make optimum use of technological advancements for enhancing the learning experiences.

I believe that children are a gift and possess diverse talents and capabilities. I consider it a privilege to help facilitate their learning and academic growth. It is my goal to provide safe and nurturing environment conducive for learning and help encourage my learners to view the world around them as a place of learning and discovery. By doing this, I hope to instill in them a desire to become lifelong learners.

I am so happy to see my son having joyful learning experiences at Matua Ngaru and I am delighted to be a part of this wonderful school. I look forward to collaborating with the team and effectively engage with the learners.

Asha Bhatia

Ellyce Martin


Kia ora koutou, my name is Ellyce Martin and I feel excited and privileged to be joining the team at Matua Ngaru School.

Since turning 5 and starting school myself, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher. After a brief change of heart that resulted in a Bachelor or Commerce, I completed the Graduate Diploma in Teaching. I have been teaching for 6 years, the first 4 years at Matipo Primary in Te Atatu teaching across New Entrant and Year 2. Most recently, I spent 2 years teaching Year 3 and Year 4 in London. Before teaching in London I was lucky enough to nanny for the great grandchildren of Roald Dahl!

I love to travel and explore new places and in the past 4 years I have travelled to 40 countries and countless cities. I am excited to spend some time exploring and enjoying our beautiful country.

I’m looking forward to meeting and working with students, parents, colleagues and the wider community at Matua Ngaru School to create the best opportunities for each child to succeed.

Other regular educators in our space are:

Angela Lidgard - Learning Assistant

Sarah Gillett - Learning Assistant

Sherryn Cumming - Friday Learning Assistant

Other regular educators in our space are:

Stephanie Deacon - Regular reliever

Kenda Lethbridge - Regular reliever

Michael Davidson - STEAM educator