Yolanda Kirkbeck

Our Matriarch / Owner

My life’s interest is children.  I have been blessed in bringing up six wonderful children in Thames with my late husband Brent and I am now Oma to 15 lovely grandchildren.  I have had many varied positions caring for and educating children in the wonderful years of Early Childhood.  I was inspired by attending the early teachings of Pikler by my friend Pennie Brownlee.  I, in turn, inspired my daughter Tineke to investigate this wonderful way of being and teaching.  In the final five years of my teaching, my dream came true to own a centre with my family.  The vision of working together to create a place where children and their families would really feel the love and care in a home away from home environment.  I am so proud of what the team have grown at Oma Rāpeti and I know the journey will continue.   

I am now semi retired in Thames and still enjoy relieving sometimes. I love being involved in my family, nature, camping, swimming, and walking my dog Niko.  I love to be on the road and travel around New Zealand and overseas to my homeland Holland.  My two most favourite cities are Amsterdam and Auckland.  I also love big trees, the sun, stars and especially the moon!  I feel very blessed and find the more time I am here on this earth, the less I know!

"The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives."

- Robert John Meehan

Tineke Sutton


My love for the early years started when I was a child looking after my doll babies, then in my teenage years my brothers and sisters and infants and toddlers in my small town community. My career for many years was directed to teaching music to older children and teenagers which was a wonderful and fulfilling time of my life. My difficulty in conceiving and the incredible blessing of two children for me became a special time of rekindling my love for the early years and supporting other mothers in my family and community.

It was not until 2011 that I entered into partnership with my Mother, Yolanda, an early childhood teacher with a dream to create a truly nurturing place for families and teachers. That's when Oma Rāpeti Early Learning Centre was born! For us all and me especially, it has been an amazing heart journey, learning and growing alongside incredible people in our Oma Rāpeti family. In studying our wonderful curriculum, Te Whāriki, and in discovering the work of Dr. Emmi Pikler, I found my life passion and the remaining time I am blessed with will be spent exploring and sharing respectful partnership between adults and children and celebrating infants, toddlers and children as capable human beings. I know it must be my focus, as it is the key to growing a more joyful, peaceful and loving world.

I am so thankful that we have found over time an absolute gem of a team that really is the heart of Oma Rāpeti. Each of the team bring with them their passion, their vision and their amazing hearts and we are all so lucky that we get to spend our days together.

In addition to holding a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood Education), Tineke has completed Dance with me in the Heart Levels One and Two, along with the Facilitator training. She also completed her RIE® Foundations: Theory and Observation course in 2017.  

"You must be the change you want to see in the world."

Mahatma Ghandi

Malenka Robinson

Assistant Manager
Senior Teacher

Malenka has been an educator at Oma Rāpeti since 2013. This has primarily been in the Burrow but she has been spending time in the Meadow since April 2017. She holds a Bachelor of Education (Teaching) from the University of Auckland. Malenka completed RIE® Foundations: Theory and Observation™ Course in 2011, and has also completed Dance with me in the Heart Levels One and Two. Malenka believes in the critical role that strong relationships with teachers, whānau and children play in children's learning.

"Let the child be the scriptwriter, the director and the actor in his own play"

- Magda Gerber

Shirley McQueen

Senior Teacher

Shirley was born and raised in sunny Dunedin and has been an early childhood teacher since 2004. She joined the Oma Rāpeti team in October 2012 and is currently a Senior Teacher in the Meadow. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Otago and Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood) from University of Otago College of Education. Shirley has completed Dance with Me in the Heart Levels One and Two in 2014/15.  She has an ongoing interest in implementing a culture of kindness within the centre. Shirley is our resident gardener who loves to share her passion for nature and gardening with the children, so they in turn can explore their relationship with the natural wonders of the world.

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."

- Aristotle

Debbie Webster


Debbie has worked at Oma Rāpeti since the centre opened in October 2011. Her role initially was to offer healthy, home-cooked meals for the children and to support Tineke with the administration side of running the centre. At the beginning of 2013, she joined the Burrow team. She already held a Bachelor of Education (Primary Teaching) with Honours from Oxford University, but went on to complete a further two years teacher registration process under the guidance of Malenka (Senior Teacher in the Burrow at that time). Debbie has attended Dance with me in the Heart Level One in 2015, followed by Level two in 2016. Debbie strongly believes in the need to engage with our children in the natural world. She is passionate about supporting them as they connect with their senses, nurture their sense of wonder, look with them and marvel at the miracles of nature. In this way she hopes to keep the enchantment of childhood alive.

- Maria Montessori

"Play is the work of the child."

Carolyn Hoyles


Carolyn has been a part of Oma Rāpeti since 2014, working with the children, families and teaching team in the Burrow whilst she finished her Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) from Auckland University. She took a break in 2015 to care for her amazing son Harvey, who you will see around Oma Rāpeti also. Carolyn has been spending her days in the Meadow alongside the children and team but has headed off on maternity leave as she waits for the arrival of her daughter mid-October. 

Carolyn is strongly influenced by the RIE® approach, ensuring children have respectful and authentic relationships to give them a strong and secure foundation for a love of learning and life. She has a passion and commitment to nurturing calm and respectful practice and working in partnership with children and families.

"A child's play is not simply a reproduction of what he has experienced, but a creative reworking of the impressions he has acquired."

- Lev Vygotsky

Sophie Moskowitz


After spending time at Oma Rāpeti as a reliever and student in 2015, Sophie joined the team in The Meadow in November 2016. Sophie holds a Bachelor of Science, in Psychology and Linguistics and has also completed a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood) in 2015. She completed Dance with Me in the Heart Level One in 2016, just before joining the team here - which felt like the most fortuitous timing.  Sophie went on maternity leave in July and is spending the next little while getting to know her daughter Margot.  We will welcome her back into the Meadow in 2018.

Sophie is passionate about working together with the rest of the Oma Rāpeti teaching team, whānau and children to create a natural, empowering learning environment where children are free to set themselves challenges and develop strong 'people literacy' skills that will last them a lifetime.

"We liberate our children not by making them work for our love, but by letting them rest in it."

- Gordon Neufeld

Leanne Ray


Leanne has been at Oma Rāpeti since March 2015 and spends her days with the children, families and team of the Meadow. She completed her Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) from Auckland University of Technology in Akoranga in 2012. She has attended Dance with me in the Heart Level One in 2015. Leanne is passionate about children having space, time, love and care to be who they are and develop in the ways they need to. Leanne is a nature advocate, enjoying being outside, especially with animals while exploring our magical world. Leanne is committed to the Culture of Kindness; strongly inspired by the Pikler approach and heart-centred care.

"What we are teaches the child far more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become."

- Joseph Chilton Pearce

Stephanie Hale


Stephanie joined the family in June 2017. She holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Auckland and a Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood) from Auckland College of Educations. After more than twenty years of teaching, Stephanie completed Dance with me in the Heart Level One in 2017. She is passionate about building authentic relationships with children and their families and loves nothing more than observing children totally engrossed in their play.

"Be careful what you teach. It might interfere with what they are learning."

- Magda Gerber

Antonia Fletcher


Antonia is a recent addition to our Oma Rāpeti Whānau starting June 2017 and currently works in The Burrow. She completed a Bachelor of Spatial Design from AUT in 2012 and a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood) from Auckland University in 2015. Antonia has been working as an Early Childhood Teacher in Grey Lynn since 2014 and continued her learning completing the RIE® Foundations: Theory and Observation Course™ in 2017. Antonia values the special position we are in as teachers to be a part of children and their families lives. She is very excited to be back working in the community that she grew up in. 

"Don't forget to stop and smell the roses."

- William Hagen​​

Jo Brodie


After arriving in Auckland in July 2014 - Jo jumped straight into the administration role here at Oma Rāpeti. Sister-in-Love to Tineke, sister of Tim, she is also one incredible mother to Isla and Flynn. She attended Dance with me in the Heart level one in 2016 and believes this experience completely changed her life. Jo now works alongside the children as an unqualifed teacher as well as remaining our loyal administrator. She looks forward to attending Dance with me in the Heart Level Two later this year - there is no stopping her now. Jo loves being part of the Oma Rāpeti Whanau and "dancing" with the children and teachers - it truly is a home away from home.

"What is for you, won't go past you"

- Unknown

Hazel Fernandes


Hazel has recently joined our team at Oma Rapeti in September 2017.  She has been working as an Early childhood teacher since February 2015 in South Auckland. She has completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood from the University of Auckland in 2014. Hazel has also completed her RIE® Foundations – Theory and Observation in 2015. She believes in developing respectful and responsive relationships with children and whānau. Her beliefs also are deeply rooted in desire to experience an encounter of aspirations, by supporting children’s thoughts to thrive on their experiences within their surroundings.

"​Teaching should be such that, what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty."

- Albert Einstein

Claire Mayo


Claire joined the team in early 2018 and has been a part of the Oma Rapeti whānau since 2013, int he capacity of a student teacher, a relief teacher and now a permanent teacher.  Claire started her career as an early childhood teacher in 2002 before becoming a nanny in London, and later in Sydney, then returning to native New Zealand to commence her studies.  She now holds a Bachelor of Education (ECE), completed in 2015, and a Masters of Education with First Class Honours, completed in 2017, both from The University of Auckland. The latter enabled Claire to research the transition to school experiences of gifted children; a task that was hugely challenging in terms of both content and in learning how to conduct research. Claire believes this experience has helped her to empathise more with young children as they embark on the challenges associated with stepping out of their comfort zone and learning something new.

Claire is passionate about encouraging children’s natural curiosity and fostering their desire to learn. She believes in providing children with the time and space to develop their interests as well as their own emerging understandings of how they learn. Claire also champions a curriculum that is flexible, adaptive to individual needs, and that can be based upon the prior experiences and knowledge that children bring with them into the early childhood centre.

“The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning.”

- John Dewey

Yvonne Liu


Jana To

Early Learning Group
Coordinator & Facilitator
Relief Teacher

Jana started calling Oma Rāpeti her second home in mid 2013 after completing a Bachelor in Steiner Early Childhood Education at AUT in 2011. When became a parent to her two children Evania (2011) and Oliver (2015) this opened up a whole new world of respect and appreciation for parents and families. She has completed Dance with me in the Heart Levels One and Two, along with the Facilitator training. She also completed her RIE® Foundations: Theory and Observation™ course in 2017. Jana wears a few 'hats' at Oma Rāpeti but primarily spends her time as our Early Learning Group facilitator and coordinator. She also spends time in the Burrow and Meadow providing cover for the rest of the team. She is a huge advocate for open communication, strong and respectful relationships and truly values each family's unique story.

"Earlier is not better."

- Magda Gerber

Tim Sutton

Property Manager

Tim joined the team by default when it was purchased by his wife and Mother-in-love in 2011. He currently works doing what ever needs doing around the building and generally helps keep things in working order. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Victoria University of Wellington continuing his studies at Dr. Paul University in Chicago, He has been working as the bass trombonist with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra since 1990. Tim enjoys seeing the excitement that fixing something brings to the children's day.

"The greatest things in life aren't things."

- Art Buchwald

Brenda Whyte

Relief Teacher

Brenda has been at Oma Rāpeti since 2013 and you will find her either cooking our delicious meals in the kitchen or spending time in the Meadow with the children and team. She has a background in working with children in many different areas and enjoys watching children be the beautiful beings they are. Her passion is her family - and enjoys celebrating the spirit of whānau when at Oma Rāpeti.

"Families are like branches on a tree, we grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one."

- Unknown

"We are all just walking each other home." - - Ram Dass
"We are all just walking each other home."

- Ram Dass


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