Mary Woods Matahui School Principal

Principal | Mary Woods

My name is Mary Woods and I feel very honoured to be the principal of Matahui School. I have been teaching for 18 years and bring to Matahui School experience in teaching students who have a diverse range of learning styles and attributes. I have specialised in teaching gifted and talented children. I have worked in the Bay of Plenty for all of my teaching career mainly at our largest intermediate schools. During my teaching career, I have led many areas, these include IT strategic planning, implementing digital programmes, Science, Future Problem Solving, Literacy and Mathematics. I have taken groups of students to the United States of America to represent New Zealand at the Future Problem Solving Internationals which was an amazing experience. Science and Future Problem Solving are areas of passion for me, often within these areas students gain an understanding of real global issues and how they can play an important role in improving humankind. I enjoy seeing children flourish in a supportive environment in which they can develop their specific gifts and talent.I have recently moved to the Pahoia area with my husband Jim and we are loving the warm community. We have two daughters and three grandchildren. We enjoy camping and outdoor experiences. We also love growing our own food and planting New Zealand native trees.

Debbie Kingsford-Tinling, Years 0 - 2 Teacher Matahui School

Years 0 – 2 | Debbie Kingsford-Tinling

My name is Debbie Kingsford-Tinling and I am the New Entrant Kaiako (teacher) at Matahui School. Previously, I was the Lead Kaiako (teacher) for the Matahui School forest school programme. I am a passionate Early Childhood Educator and have been teaching in the ECE sector for 33 years. I believe that whakawhanaungatanga is at the heart of all that we do, and building strong, authentic relationships with whānau, tamariki, colleagues, and the wider community is my priority. My teaching practice values and acknowledges the aspirations of whānau and recognises the strengths, experiences, and gifts each child brings. I acknowledge that every child is special and unique and deserves acceptance and respect to uphold their mana and develop their full potential. At Matahui School our New Entrant Class reflects a play-based environment with emphasis on natural resources and materials. I am excited to welcome our newest members to Matahui School and offer a nurturing environment that supports and ignites their curiosity and sparks their love for learning.

I live at Waihi Beach and am married with three young adult sons. I enjoy an active lifestyle, spending much of my spare time in nature with friends and whānau, either on the Moana (ocean) paddling in my single waka or enjoying walks in the ngahere (forest) and the great outdoors. I have a deep love for nature and the rich learning opportunities it provides. My teaching practice reflects and models a sense of kaitiaki through respect, kindness, and protection for our natural world.

Karen Hamilton

Years 3 – 4 | Karen Hamilton

Hi, I’m Karen and I am from Northern Ireland. I came to New Zealand as a backpacker and I fell in love with Tauranga, then I fell in love with my now husband.  We live in Tauranga with our 2 cats- Patrick and Vincent aka Toot. 

I am creative and I enjoy hands on activities that explore our senses. I come from an Art and Design background and I am passionate about using creativity to access and explore learning across the curriculum.

I believe curiosity is our natural path toward discovery and development. When I walked into Matahui school, I felt at home with the beautiful balance of core learning wrapped in inquiry that encourages the child to flourish in a way that best suits them. The small class size creates a warm and nurturing environment for children to grow.

In my spare time I enjoy dabbling in my garden and DIY projects around the house. I am always excited to take on new tasks and work things out, it is a tremendous feeling when it all comes together. 

My goal as a teacher is to help children become confident in themselves and to discover their love of learning.


Years 5 – 6 | Colleen Brink

Hi, my name is Colleen. I am a mother to two daughters and a stepmom to two boys. We are an active family, busy with a wide range of sports including surfing, surf lifesaving and yoga. I love a good book, photography, gardening and spending time with my family and friends. I am originally from Zimbabwe, and immigrated to New Zealand with my family when I was 16. I completed my schooling and worked on a dairy farm in the Waikato before studying primary school teaching. I returned to Africa to build and run a small school in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia for children aged 2 – 10 years old. I managed a safari camp while I was there, as well as teaching and working as a safari guide. I returned to NZ, and worked as a zero waste educator before working as an ECE teacher. I have completed my qualifications as a Level 3 Forest School Leader. I have been working as a forest school teacher in Cambridge for the last three years working with children aged 3- 6 years old.  I love working with all the different age groups, watching them explore, discover and create. I especially enjoy teaching children about wildlife and nature, sharing my passion for conservation and sustainability. My goal as a teacher is to help children to become successful lifelong learners, who are confident, independent and resilient.

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Years 7 – 8 | Position currently advertised

Click here to view the position description. Applications close February 23, 2024.

Christine D Music Teacher Christine Deschamps

Music & French | Christine Deschamps

In 2006 I moved back to NZ with my family after 12 years of living on small French islands. I have taught music for many years and my path led me back to Matahui School where I had been involved in the very early days. I have a classical piano background (LTCL) and am a qualified primary teacher. My style of music teaching has been very influenced by both the Yamaha and the Orff pedagogy, through which I have developed a belief that everyone is musical and that we are all better off if we have not only music, but all of the performing arts in our lives.

I am a fluent French speaker and also have the role of teaching French to all classes at Matahui School. I am responsible for organising a Tahitian exchange offered every two years to our year 7 and 8 students, an experience which is a highlight for those who take part. My husband (who is French) and I have two daughters in their 20’s. When I’m not teaching, you will find me either at my sewing machine or in the garden. I’m a country girl and love living on our 10 acres in Whakamarama.

Kristine Aitchison

Marketing | Kristine Aitchison

Hi, I’m Kristine and I run the marketing for Matahui School. I moved down to the Bay of Plenty in 2019 and started working as the marketing administrator for Matahui School in 2020. After the birth of my second child, I needed more flexibility around work and family, so decided to start my journey as a small business owner. I still work for Matahui School, however, I now contract my marketing services. I live in Ōmokoroa with my partner, son (7 years), and daughter (3 years). We love the relaxed lifestyle, friendly community, and being so close to the beach. Our son attends Matahui School and loves it. We appreciate that we couldn’t get this kind of education for our kids in Auckland. The Matahui School learning philosophy is unique and the kind of education I wish I had had as a child.


Office Administration | Abbie Buskirk

Hi, I’m Abbie and I’m the office administrator at Matahui School. I moved back to New Zealand from Orlando, Florida in 2021 with my husband, son and two dogs, we now live in Omokoroa. We absolutely love living here and we are taking advantage of the more relaxed lifestyle and our proximity to the beach. I have a Bachelor of Media Studies, prior to this I worked in the hospitality industry both here and in the USA. I am thoroughly enjoying working at Matahui School and being a part of its magic, it is such an amazing environment.

Sarah Buckley, Matahui School Business Administrator

Business Administrator | Sarah Buckley

My name is Sarah, and I am the Business Administrator at Matahui School. I have worked in accounting and administration for over 20 years. I am originally from Auckland but moved to Tauranga in 1999, where we settled for 25 years. We moved to Aongatete four years ago and absolutely love the lifestyle. We have two adult sons, aged 24 and 29, and two beautiful granddaughters. We are a very busy and involved family who enjoy the outdoors and spending time together. I am thrilled to be a part of the Matahui School team and to be working with the students.

Board of Trustees

Craig McCullough – Chairperson

Stephanie Hume

Andrew Dallas

Andrew George

Mary Woods – Principal

For information on enrolments…

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