Staff Profiles


Gina Smith - Principal

Initially I didn’t want to be a teacher but my sister-in-law thought it would be a great idea and took me to an intake evening. Lucky she did because I love what I do! The reason I changed my mind was I wanted school to be a great experience for all tamariki.

I was terrified on my first day but there was no need to be. Those first students were the reason I am still a teacher. They took everything we gave them & looked after us all. They taught me how to be a teacher.

What I like most about teaching is that every day is different and you never stop learning. It is rewarding seeing students happy and being able to help them when learning is hard or they are having a tough time.


Tara Johnson - Office Administrator

I was born here in our local maternity home and grew up playing on our street with neighboring children and yelling out "cars" when we had to get off the road for cars coming. I loved my years here at Featherston School where we had "windy fort" and the bell was rung by a student with a metal rod and we wore mufti clothing all the time.

I have two teen boys and a very supportive husband.

I am a volunteer firefighter with our Featherston Fire Brigade - Thanks to Gina, I am able to go to calls during school hours so sometimes I wont be in the office to help you.

Room 1 - New Entrants

Sue Ham - Classroom Teacher & Junior School Team Leader

I have been privileged to be Deputy Principal and a junior school teacher at Featherston School since 2014. I have taught at a number of schools during my teaching career, from isolated sole charge rural schools to a large city school of 600 students but nowhere has touched my heart like Featherston School and its amazing students and community.

When I am not teaching I enjoy spending time with Tony my husband, daughter Kirsty and granddaughter Maddie. I am a passionate gardener, dog lover and dog walker for Gypsy our dog as well as being a smitten carer for LJ our tabby kitten.

Debbie - Teacher Aide

I have lived in Featherston for about 28 years, I have worked or volunteered at Featherston School for the past 20. I am currently the cleaner and the teacher aide in Room 1. I love coming to school each day, it does not feel like work at all. Every day is a pleasure, the children bring such joy to my days. Being greeted by all those happy faces, smothered in hugs is the best way to begin the day. Who could ask for more?

Room 2 - Year 2

Kimberley Hewison - Classroom Teacher

Shared teaching position in Room 2 with Philippa Hilliard

Natalie - Teacher Aide

I became a teacher aide soon after moving back into the area from Lower Hutt. On my first day I remember feeling very much out of depth! It was a huge change from anything else I had ever done. I love seeing children make progress in their learning and feel very fortunate to be part of the process. It is an absolute joy to work with children and get to know them individually. It is such a warm and welcoming environment and I love coming to work each day.

Room 3 - Year 3

Natalie Orbell - Classroom Teacher

I became a teacher because I wanted to inspire young people. I believe in building strong relationships and learning about the wellbeing of each student, while celebrating diversity and creating a multicultural setting in the classroom.

I highly value home-school partnerships and believe in shared communication and that collaboration is important to support tamariki and their learning needs. I encourage high expectations and believe the students need to be challenged and have achievable and realistic goals established. I always treat my students fairly and with respect.

My classroom will be a positive, fun, friendly and safe environment for learning and students need to feel comfortable taking risks.

Leah - Teacher Aide


Room 4 - Year 4

Michael Holmes - Classroom Teacher

Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe, me he maunga teitei

Aim for the stars and even if you don't reach them you will have achieved much more in your life than if you hadn't.

I am passionate about helping children become the best they can be in their learning and creating effective learning environments. Most of my adult life, I have been involved in education, from teaching English as a second language in Japan and Wellington, to teaching graphic design at the tertiary level. I am a life-long learner and constantly challenge myself to learn new things and develop myself both professionally and in my personal life. I retrained as a primary school teacher in 2012, worked one year as a relief teacher in South Wairarapa then two years’ full time at Silverstream School and then four years at Takapuna Primary School. I set up and ran a bilingual akomanga/classroom for two years at Takapuna Primary School which was a fantastic challenge learning to teach rūmaki (immersion) style and teaching ākonga who are new to te reo Māori. I loved being able to speak in te reo Māori every day and miss that so I am hoping we can help develop lots of te reo speakers at Te Kura o Paetūmokai! I got back from living in Japan at the end of 2021, having given my daughter an overseas experience for a couple of years. Working at a bilingual international school over there was a rewarding and challenging experience. My daughter is enjoying learning at Kuranui College and we both love living in Featherston again which is my daughter's tūrangawaewae. I look forward to contributing as much as I can to the amazing tamariki and community of Te Kura o Paetūmokai!

Darren - Teacher Aide

I have lived in Featherston for over 10 years, and am very proud to call it my home.

My first experience of working at a school started in 2020 (shortly before the first lockdown) where I was employed as a Teacher’s Aide by St Teresa's, followed by starting here at Featherston School at the start of 2022. It has been an interesting couple of years, and I've loved it all! Especially the resilience and creativity of the students and staff over this time. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the future will bring!

Room 5 - Year 7 & 8

Whaea Michelle - Deputy Principal - Senior School Team Leader


Adele - Teacher Aide

Room 6 - Year 6 & 7

Sue Button - Classroom Teacher

I became a teacher because I want to help children realise their true potential. I really enjoy challenging children to become lifelong learners in everything they do. I have had some amazing teachers myself who made learning fun and engaging and made sure school was a wonderful experience for me and I hope to replicate this in my classroom. I have been involved with children sports for most of my adult life through coaching and before teaching I worked in the banking and superannuation industry.

Te Ata - Teacher Aide


Room 7 - Year 5

Vicki Smith - Classroom Teacher

Kia ora

I have a passion for working with tamariki and helping them to reach their potential. For me, it is vital to assess the levels and skill gaps for each student so we can fill those gaps and set new goals. It is important that each individual student is invested in their own learning so that they can feel the pride that comes with achievement. I feel blessed to be at Featherston School and am honoured to be part of this amazing team of educators.

I returned to Aotearoa 5 years ago from the US. I have a tiny section in the middle of Carterton which I have filled with 2 dogs, 3 cats, 3 chooks, and a hubby. I couldn't be more blessed living in the beautiful Wairarapa Valley.

Jo - Teacher Aide


I’m Jo Johnson, I have lived in Featherston for about 28yrs. I have two girls aged 22 and 20, who were both taught at Featherston School. I have been a teacher aide at Featherston School since 2004, I have worked in all classes throughout the school in that time. I am also the library administrator in the school. I love supporting and helping to teach the kids in this town. I am the Featherston Swimming Club President and have been on the committee for 14yrs.


Sandra Walters - Technology Teacher

I became a teacher because I love working with children. I started as a Playcentre Mum when my children were small, followed them to school (teacher aide, volunteer, worked in the office) and decided I might as well do the extra training and be an actual teacher.

I remember my class of year 5/ 6 students designing and making yachts out of recycled materials and racing them in the school creek. I also remember using different natural materials to dye fabrics. Perhaps these experiences are what encouraged me to specialise in technology. I enjoy talking with a wide variety of students. I enjoy seeing delight on the faces of students who have achieved something they did not believe they could do. I love to see the creativity of students in my classes – they come up with some very useful, relevant designs and just need me to help them make them.

I started working when I was a child, picking raspberries. Since then I have work in a fruit shop, a cheese factory, waitressing, at the Statistics department (yawn), market research administration & client service, in the school office, as a teacher Aide, a teacher, a general election polling place manager, a minute secretary & Returning Officer for BOT.

Ange Compton - Technology Teacher

I became a teacher as I feel that education is important. One of my first memories of being a teacher was riding to school on my motorbike and arriving cold and wet. As a teacher I try to find the best ways to help each student learn.

I have previously been a bus driver, worked in a gallery, been a researcher and been involved in natural healing. The funniest thing I remember as a teacher was not noticing that some students had glued equipment to the ceiling.

Extension Teachers

Dallas Powell - Teacher

I have wanted to be a teacher since the age of 5. When I was 12 years old I was home sick for 3 weeks so I drew individual students and placed them around my room and taught them. My first year of teaching was at Tairangi in Porirua. I had a lovely class of standard one students.

I like that each child is an individual. A 5 year old has as much character as a 13 year old. They soak up knowledge like a sponge. I have previously worked for IHC and IRD in between teaching jobs. I once asked a student if I had 6 bananas and I ate 2, what fraction would I have left? His answer was “The skins”!

Abby - Reading Recovery Teacher

I have an eclectic teaching background which came hand in hand with my other passion – travelling. I taught early childhood in Australia and Canada, English in China and Japan and I was a teacher aide in England. In New Zealand, my favourite of all places, I have taught from early childhood through to intermediate. I now am lucky enough to be a part of the Featherston school community, both as a parent and a staff member.

I am always eager to learn new ways we can connect with nature while treading as lightly as possible on Papatūānuku. Reciprocal relationships with each other and with the environment are at the heart of the way I teach, live and learn.

One of my favourite things about teaching is being a part of the learning journey with tamariki and seeing their reactions to their own successes in learning.