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.


Huiping (Crystal) Li – Preschool Teacher
Bachelor of Economics
Graduate Diploma of Teaching (ECE)
Master of Business Administration

Crystal changed her career path from business to early childhood education not long after she migrated to New Zealand and had her twin boys twenty years ago. She firmly believes the first years set the foundation of one’s entire life and would like to be part of the journey of many young children. She brings with her over twelve years of experience as a fully registered teacher in various early childhood settings in Aotearoa.

Crystal holds “children learn through play” dearly in her heart. She sees her role as kaiako as encouraging and supporting children to grow holistically and fulfil their potential. She also believes in “an environment as the third teacher” and endeavours to provide a wide range of enriching experiences and a well-resourced environment in her pedagogy.

Interests: In her spare time, Crystal enjoys jogging, reading, singing, and travelling.