Our Preschool Staff

We have a number of full-time and part-time staff at the Preschool that ensures we are able to offer the best teacher to child ratios for your child.

Our staff are registered teachers who have many years experience, and a love of, working with children.


Irene Callen, Head Teacher
Bachelor of Education (Applied) with Distinction
Diploma of Teaching (ECE)
Teacher Registration
Certificate of Early Childhood Education
Certificate of Management in ECE
Certificate of Adult Teaching


Irene’s teaching career started with her own children at Playcentre and has spanned over 40 years working in many different fields of early childhood education including the tertiary level. She resonates with various early childhood pedagogies that include a spiritual dimension. Other key points are emergent curriculum, inclusion of teacher passions, the value of projects, a love of nature, and science as a wonderful medium for teaching children how to think and learn.

The preschool team has developed a culture of practical philosophy with many daily practices emerging. We prepare the students for their entry into the Ficino School and have a strong Transition to School Programme.

Interests: Philosophy, meditation, theatre, music, travel, movies, crafts, cooking, reading, gardening and walking.


Helen Ashton – Preschool Teacher
Bachelor of Arts (Education and Anthropology)
Graduate Diploma in Teaching (ECE)


When her children were young, Helen joined Playcentre and was strongly influenced by its philosophy, principles and practices as well as its commitment to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Her experiences at Playcentre inspired her to train as an early childhood teacher.

Her intention is to be a thoughtful and reflective partner in relationship with children, their families, colleagues and the early childhood learning community.

Interests: In her leisure time she enjoys long walks, singing, dance performances and good films.


Gina Kim – Preschool Teacher
Graduate Diploma in ECE, NZ Tertiary College
Bachelor of Art (ECE), Yongnam University, Korea


Gina has a four-year bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Korea. She is well travelled and is culturally sensitive. Gina has studied yoga therapy in both India and Korea, she incorporates this into her teaching.

She studied at the New Zealand Tertiary College for her Graduate Diploma in ECE. Gina is proud to teach at the Ficino Preschool as their philosophy and their values resonates with her. She especially loves sitting in the circle with the preschool children practicing mindfulness.

Interests – Tai Chi, Yoga, meditation, hiking, dancing, singing, cooking and healthy living


Shirley Parker – Preschool Teacher
Bachelor of Education (ECE)


Shirley’s teaching journey began in France where she lived for 12 years with her French partner and three daughters.  She worked in an ‘English mini school’ for French preschool children and taught in a variety of establishments.  She also gave private English conversation classes.

She believes the environment influences how children learn.  She loves providing meaningful and practical learning opportunities that promote care, respect and inspire a passion for discovery.

Interests: gardening, cooking, making arts and crafts from recycled and re-purposed materials, volunteer at St Vincent De Paul shop