BELLEVUE Staff


Kia Ora.

My name is Scott Symes and I am very proud to call Montessori@Bellevue my new home. I have been working in education for 16 years with 5 years experience working within two senior leadership teams and 4 years as Principal in an intermediate school in Auckland.

I am incredibly passionate about student learning and exploration, with students using an inquiry-based approach to make sense of the world around them. I am incredibly excited and humbled to be working alongside your children initiating authentic, fun and positive learning experiences. Montessori education resonates strongly with my own personal philosophy of education and I look forward to continuing to build my knowledge and skills within this area.

I have always encouraged students to develop self-management skills by building their independence while still being able to collaborate effectively with others. Creating an environment where children are able to be curious, adapt, problem solve, work independently and collaboratively and achieve both success and enjoyment are my ultimate goals.

My personal passions include cooking, photography and connecting with the great outdoors!  

Scott Symes
Lead Teacher

I have worked in the 6-9 Montessori class for 12 years.  It has been a pleasure to be involved in the evolution of Montessori@Bellevue.  I have a Lower Elementary (6-9) Montessori Diploma through the North American Montessori Centre, Bachelor of Teaching and a Masters degree in Montessori Integrated Learning.  I joined the Montessori team after completing my teaching degree and working for six months as a new entrant teacher.

My passion in the classroom is working to understand the balance of freedom and responsibility needed to maintain a healthy and happy environment where everyone is flourishing.  This means constantly observing to gain insight into the neuro-diversity of each person in our community in order to identify how I can best assist them.

My personal interests range from mosaic work and sewing to camping and fishing.  I work to integrate these when the opportunity arises.

Suzanne Russell
Teacher 6-9

I have taught the Senior Montessori Class for eleven years. I completed my Upper Elementary (9-12) Montessori Diploma through the North American Montessori Centre. Prior to teaching at Montessori@Bellevue I taught at Otumoetai Intermediate.

One of my passions is dance; I learnt and taught tap dancing. I am also a keen musician and really enjoy teaching music at school. This might involve the children singing as a group, learning songs on the marimba or making their own music. As a Montessori teacher I have developed a love of mathematics; the materials have helped me understand mathematical concepts better and made maths fun!

The calm environment and the opportunity to work with children in a holistic way drew me to Montessori. Montessori, for me, feels like learning for life.

One of the strengths of our Montessori unit is the sense of community and this is particularly evident when the children work together or the classes combine for an important event. Our team has a diverse range of strengths and we work closely together to help the children.

Deirdre Harrison
Teacher 9-12

I am a teacher in one of the 6-9 Montessori classes. Prior to this, I taught alongside Deirdre in the 9-12 classes for a year and a half.

Originally from Auckland, I discovered Montessori education by accident while completing my Bachelor of Education at AUT University. As soon as I learnt about the Montessori way, I just knew that this was who I am as a person and a teacher.

I was strongly drawn to the holistic approach of Montessori. I believe that a key purpose of education is to help develop the child as a whole while promoting a culture of peace and understanding. I aim to inspire children to be responsible and respectful of themselves, others and the environment. I believe that this, in combination with developing a life-long love of learning, will help to develop children who are ready to face an uncertain future.

I am passionate about languages, particularly Japanese, and all of the sciences. It’s a privilege to be able to bring these passions into the class and spark the imaginations and interests of children. One of the exciting parts of working in Montessori at Bellevue is the sense of community both inside and outside of the classroom. In combination with a teaching team with a wide variety of strengths and passions, this contributes to a positive learning environment where every individual and their needs are valued.

Isabella Dunn
Teacher 6–9

I consider it a blessing to work with the 6-9 year old children in the Montessori environment alongside Irene and Karina.  I appreciate having the students for three years as this allows me to have a deeper relationship with them and I get to know a lot about each child’s interests, experiences, strengths, motivations, and needs. Supporting children socially and emotionally is an important aspect for me.  I admire Maria Montessori’s rich source of educational wisdom, especially with her main aim of assisting the development of the human spirit.

I have completed Montessori papers through AUT, Montessori NZ and The Montessori Foundation, have a Bachelor of Teaching from Waikato University, a Certificate of Art and Creativity, and an Advanced Diploma in Steiner Education.  The best education, however, has come from being in the classroom.  The children have been my teachers and they guide me often on best teaching practices.  Each child is unique with different requirements on how to meet his/her specific needs. 

JayJay Smith
Teacher 6-9

I have a Bachelor of Education (Honours) in Teaching Studies and am in my ninth year working at Montessori@Bellevue, currently as a relieving teacher 3 days a week covering classroom release time for all the teachers and for the remaining days, as teacher assistant in the 6-9 classes.  I love being able to work with all the children in the syndicate and spend so much time with them all through the years.

I was first introduced to Montessori when looking for a pre-school for my daughter.  We were so taken with the teaching philosophy and how the child was considered that she started Montessori preschool at 22 months old and stayed on at Montessori@Bellevue until year 7.

A few years ago I introduced sewing to the classes and the children have enjoyed being incredibly creative with their design and embroidery, learning intricate stitches and persevering for hours.

Steph Mackenzie
Relieving Teacher/Teacher Assistant 6-12

I have a passion for working with children and spent three years working in the foster system prior to joining Montessori@Bellevue. I have certificates in Difficult Behaviour Management, Crisis Intervention and Child Brain Development and have a wealth of experience working with traumatised children.

Prior to this I have worked within the dairy, forestry and construction industries and worked with animals, training dogs and working with tigers at Zion Wildlife Park.

My personal interests include bio dynamic farming, sustainable living and organics. I like everything outdoors from bugs to marine life and all things nature and have greatly enjoyed helping the children with their individual interest projects and investigations.

Rhiarne Gribbin
Practical Life Specialist 6-12

Honorary Staff

2x Turtles
Red Eared Turtles

3x Fish
Goldfish