Our People

Fiona Smith, Centre Manager

What inspired you to become an early childhood teacher?

I spent some time volunteering at Playcentre when I finished school and I realised that I really enjoyed spending time with children, getting to know them and helping them to grow and develop, so I decided to study to become an early childhood teacher.

How long have you been working in this sector?

Twenty-plus years!

What do you love most about what you do?

Every day is different and as early childhood teachers, we are able to play and have fun every day with the children.

What are three things that make your centre special?

Our Christian philosophy, our large playground and lovely natural areas, and our family atmosphere.

What is your favourite time of the year at the centre?

I really enjoy summertime as we are able to be outside enjoying the sunshine and everyone seems so much happier when the sun is shining.

What is your personal ECE philosophy

I believe that children need time to discover, explore and grow. We can do this by being unhurried, respectful and loving to all children. I feel that my main aim as the centre manager is to acknowledge and support the teachers in their roles, so they are able to be peacefully engaged with the children.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love the beach, trout fishing, gardening and spending time with friends and family.

Bachelor of Teaching – ECE

Gay Bollmann, Centre Cook

Hi, my name is Gay. At Little Lights I am the cook, the gardener, a reliever teacher, the health and safety officer and I also help to look after the animals. I’ve been here for 12 years! As the cook, I aim to provide our children with healthy home-cooked meals, based on the Heart Foundation guidelines. Lots of fruit and vegetables, and the carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat children need for energy.


I’m married with four children and seven grandchildren. My interests include walking in the bush or at the beach and taking photos of God’s creations - like sunsets, flowers, animals, waterfalls and the moon. I have attended Church for most of my life so base my morals on what we find in the Bible. I like to travel too, to see the different cultures and countries around the world.

I have joined up with ‘Break Free Expeditions’ a few times, to help needy people by helping to build their family a home. We take gifts to give out to the children/families or buy supplies from their local market which also helps their community. We are so blessed to be living in New Zealand so it’s great to be able to support others that are less fortunate than ourselves. These people go to extraordinary lengths just to survive and make a living for their families. We also get to see their culture and country.

Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Care, Certificate in Workplace First Aid, Certificate in Child Protection, Certificate in Food Safety

Jonathan, Teacher

Kia ora

I’m Jonathan or Matua Johnny.

What inspired me to become an ECE teacher?

I enjoyed the experience of dropping off and picking up my oldest daughter from her early education centre. It’s also in the blood with my mother being a Primary school teacher and my Grandmother being the first qualified kindergarten teacher in Rotorua.

How long have I worked in this sector?

I began my training in 2012 and have been working fulltime as a qualified teacher since 2015. In 2022 I also did a stint as an ECE lecturer on a 6 month fixed term contract.

What do I love most about what I do?

I enjoy seeing the joy and innocence in children’s faces.


What are 3 things that make this centre special?

The caring nature of the staff to one another and the children is really special. The shorter operating hours is also great in giving the staff and children more quality time with their families. The large and clean environment is also great in facilitation learning for children.

What is my favourite time of the year at Little Lights?

I haven’t seen all the seasons yet here at Little Lights but any weather that we can take advantage of our great outdoor space is the best time of year for me.

What is my personal ECE philosophy?

I believe in being authentic and making learning fun.

What do I like to do in my spare time?

I am a triathlete so enjoy running, swimming and biking with my training group and my older daughter. I also enjoy mountain biking, camping, doing home improvements and especially spending time making memories with my family.

Laura King, Teacher

What inspired me to become an early childhood teacher was that I wanted a job that gave me a sense of purpose, where the knowledge that I gained could be passed on to future generations.

I have been working in this sector for just over two years.

What I love most about this job is that I can help children in their journey to learn, grow and develop to their best potential.

Three things that makes this centre special is their faith in God, the animal interactions and the great team of teachers that work here.

My favourite time of the year is summer, when the weather is sunny and hot and the time of year when water play activities are out.

My personal ECE philosophy is that I believe learning from and about nature is important for children, to help them to understand the world they live and play in. Along with learning important social skills for their future development, making friends and communicating with others. Lastly having a sense of belonging, where children feel comfortable, confident and happy as the grow and develop in a supportive environment.

In my free time I like going for walks, reading articles and watching movies.

Jessie Kim, Teacher

What inspired you to become an early childhood teacher?

When volunteering at a playgroup at church, I realized that I was enjoying the time with children a lot. It is lovey that you can build your career out of the ones you adore. 

How long have you been working in this sector?

Around 4 years.

What do you love most about what you do?

Seeing first-hand children thrive and grow into happy, confident, well-balanced people through our education, teaching, and influence.

What are three things that make your centre special?

Our Christian faith-based philosophy and teaching

The spacious, natural outdoor environment with the opportunity to interact with animals.

The team who are supportive of each other and fun to work with


What is your favourite time of the year at the centre?

Christmas! I love our centre's Christmas party and the following holiday it offers.

What is your personal ECE philosophy?

I believe that early childhood is a tremendously important stage of a person’s life for a person to build genuine and caring relationships with others through their interactions with their peers and Kaiako and develop trust and confidence in people around, and themselves, which would have a lifelong impact on tamariki. With these beliefs, I listen carefully to and assist each child’s needs, skills, and individual character to be met and help their experience at kindy to be welcoming, caring, accepting, and warm.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like reading books and playing the piano Recently I found my old pastime of stroking the black and white keys of the piano. It is relaxing and allows something to focus without stress. I enjoy playing it as I can actually create the sound of music.