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.


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


Russell Church – Preschool Teacher
Bachelor of Arts (Education)
Post Graduate Diploma of Arts (Education)
Graduate Diploma in Teaching (ECE)


Russell began work with young children in 1995 when he taught English as a second language in Taiwan. After a brief return to the building industry he trained as an Early Childhood Teacher and had been relieving mostly for the Auckland Kindergarten Association for four years before recently starting at Ficino Preschool.

His lifelong interest in philosophy is consistent with that of the school and he has a particular interest in developing the philosophical aspect of the ECE curriculum.