Our People

Janene Prendergast, Centre Manager

What inspired you to become an early childhood teacher? 

I was a mum with an infant and a toddler and I loved attending playcentre with my children.  I was offered a job at a centre and 16 years later, have never looked back!

What do you love most about what you do?

The amazing relationships that I build with our children and their families. I love the vibe at our centre – it’s full of happy engaged children, and welcoming, responsive staff.

What are three things that set your centre apart?

The stable committed team, our massive natural outdoor environment, and our partnerships with our whānau and the community.

What is your favourite time of the year at the centre, and why?

Every day that is not raining because exploring outside is so empowering.

Tania McMahon, Head Teacher

Hello my name is Tania McMahon, I hold a Diploma of Teaching Early Childhood Education. I live in Southbridge with my husband Jack, and our 3 daughters Bonnie, Jasmine and Isobel.

On our small block of land we have my horse Joe, some chickens, a huge vegetable and fruit garden, our dog Minty and an old crazy Siamese cat Grace. I enjoy cycling for fitness where I

cycle at least 50km each week, horse riding, gardening and creative-writing, painting, and getting involved in a variety of art and craft. As a family we love travelling, fishing and spending time exploring the great outdoors.

My interest in teaching began with the birth of my first child. I was amazed at how children learnt and soaked in the world around them. We went to our local Playcentre, where through their education programme I became a supervisor. I spent 12 very happy years Supervising at both rural and urban Playcentre’s.

While still supervising I continued my education by starting a Diploma of Teaching ECE. When my youngest child was 6 yrs old I began working in a private early childhood centre.

I have been involved in teaching young children now for over 20 years, and I continue to thoroughly enjoy everyday I spend being involved with young children’s learning journey’s.

As a teacher I love being involved in the creative arts with children, as they are so free and original in their creative expression and approach to the world around them. I also like being involved with sand, water and messy play activities.One of the most fantastic aspects of being a teacher is the wonderful conversations that occur with children and the relationships that develop, as knowledge, fun and learning are shared. Being a teacher of young children is a real joy and privilege; I truly feel blessed to be apart of a young child’s start in the world.

My vision for children at Active Learners Leeston is that they feel welcome, and have a fun, safe place to develop into independent confident and caring learners and communicators. I want them to value their uniqueness, and be creative thinkers and problem-solvers.

Claire Stephens, Teacher - Enquirers Classroom

I live in Doyleston with my husband Jeremy and our three lively children, Bryon (11), Samuel (8) and Charlotte-Rose (6). I have been teaching preschool aged children for 14 years in both under and over 3 settings. I have a passion for under 5s, as I believe these are their most important learning years.

I have a special interest in music and sport, which have been a major part of my life growing up.

Diploma in Teaching and Learning (ECE)

Louise Combe, Teacher – Discoverers Classroom

I live in Leeston with my husband Glen, our two children Charlotte and Ash and our dog Cammy.

For almost five years when Charlotte and Ash were younger, I worked as a homebased educator, and it is through this role that I discovered my passion for early childhood education. I am now in my second year of Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) through the Open Polytechnic. I am very excited to be working towards this qualification.

I believe in forming strong relationships with the children and this will create a great foundation for their learning.

Teacher in Training

Jo Gregg, Teacher

Hello/Kia ora, my name is Jo. I’ve been teaching since 1995 when I graduated from Teachers College in Christchurch. One of the things I enjoy most about my job is that every day is different. I’m passionate about literacy and numeracy, and transition to school. My goal is to make sure that every child and their family moves on to their next learning journey with the skills for a successful transition and future learning.

I have two daughters that attend Ellesmere College - Olivia 16 and Siena 11. We live in Dunsandel. I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, walking, biking and going to the theatre and movies.

Andrea Loveridge, Teacher

Hi, my name is Andrea and I live in Doyleston with my partner Shane and our son Jay. Our daughter Grace has left the nest and lives in Lincoln. My working background is in accounting, but I’ve always been interested in helping and working with young children. After becoming a mum myself,  I became even more passionate about helping young children learn and achieve.

The opportunity came up to do some relieving work here, and 18 months later I was offered a permanent position. I love that no single day is the same, it is rewarding, challenging and always interesting. I love being around the children and admire their endless energy, honesty and resilience.

Rachael, Teacher

Kia Ora, my name is Rachael. I have a Bachelor of Teaching ECE and many years of teaching experience in the early childhood sector. My passion is around the environment as the third teacher and children taking charge of their own learning journey.

I feel absolutely privileged to share the journey with so many children and be a part of setting those children up for successful lifelong learning. I believe if we nurture the seed now, it will blossom into something big and wonderful in time to come.

“Poi poia te ka kano kia puawai : Nurture the seed and it will blossom.”

Dianne Simkin, Support Teacher

I’ve had many years of experience working with children. Prior to joining Active Explorers Leeston, I worked at Westport Daycare as a reliever and then full time in their nursery. I’m a mum to two grown up children - a daughter Michelle who lives in Leeston and a son Timothy who lives in Australia. I also have five gorgeous grandchildren.

I look forward to meeting and working alongside all the children and families here at Active Explorers.