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OUR TEAM

Susan Warren, Chief Executive

Susan has been COMET Auckland - Te Hononga Akoranga’s Chief Executive since 2011. Previously she was the Manager, Centre for Family Learning at COMET. She has a Masters in Education with first class honours, focusing on cognition and instruction. 

Susan has previously worked for the Ministry of Education, working with school leaders, boards and teachers in Manukau to help them raise student achievement in literacy and numeracy. She also designed and led the Pasifika Schooling Improvement project, a national project to improve the effectiveness of interventions for Pasifika students. Susan has written a variety of educational resources for World Vision New Zealand including books, DVDs, photo packs and interactive internet sites to help NZ children learn more about the developing world. Susan has always believed in the power of learning to change lives. 

Susan Warren Chief Executive
Linda Hu

Linda Hu, Director of Finance

Linda has been responsible for COMET Auckland- Te Hononga Akoranga’s finance department since 2008. She is dedicated to improving the efficiency of financial management system as well as IT system and business procedures. 

Linda is a Chartered Accountant. She has bachelor’s degrees in Business and Mathematics, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Statistics. She has huge interest in data science.

Before coming to New Zealand with her family in 2002, Linda was a Statistician and IT Manager in China.

Shaheeda Zaitoon, Office Administrator

Shaheeda joined Comet Auckland - Te Hononga Akoranga in 2017 as an administrator. She has a Diploma in Secretarial/Administration.

In Fiji she was a Personal Assistant for a Trade Union movement. 

Shaheeda Zaitoon
Annie G

Annie Gao, Financial Accountant

Annie is a newly qualified chartered accountant. She has more than ten years of experience working in accounting area for private companies in education as well as audio and video industries. Annie joined COMET in April during the lockdown and this is her first time working for a not-for-profit organisation. Annie is in charge of the payroll for all employees and contractors, full-cycle financial accounting, assisting in producing the financial reports and the annual audit, and administrative works such as managing contracts from different stakeholders.

Rebecca Toms, Communications & Fundraising Manager

Rebecca leads COMET Auckland - Te Hononga Akoranga’s communications and fundraising strategy to raise awareness of its work and the key issues affecting educational equity.

She has over ten years experience in promoting and building the public profile of the not-for-profit sector, for small businesses, local government and parliamentary services. Rebecca is a former Journalist, and she has a Graduate Diploma in Journalism Studies from Massey University.

Rebecca Toms
Polina Howe

Polina Howe, Digital Content Producer

Polina produces content for the COMET Auckland - Te Hononga Akoranga website, its initiatives and social media channels. This involves the creation of videos, photos, graphics, and audio as well as supporting material for articles and presentations.

Polina has BA(Hons) Journalism from University for the Creative Arts, UK, and over 10 years experience in advertising as a video editor and motion graphics artist.

Dr Rajshree Krishnan, Senior Data Analyst 

Raj has worked with COMET Auckland- Te Hononga Akoranga since 2014, providing data support for various projects and leading the production of our annual data snapshots.  She enjoys “making numbers talk” and believes that data should be presented in a manner that can be understood by everyone. 

Raj is originally from Malaysia. She has a PhD in educational psychology from the University of Auckland, a BSc (Hons) and a Masters with Distinction in Psychology from the University of Otago. 

Rajshree Krishnan
Shirley Johnson

Shirley Johnson, Youth Employability Director 

Shirley developed and leads our Youth Employability initiative, and works closely with employers, industry leaders, government agencies, educators, and youth service organisations. She is also the lead trainer for YEP providers around the country.

Shirley contributed to the development of the national Youth Employability Framework. Her work is closely allied to the Auckland Plan goals for sustainable growth in skills and training for the knowledge-based economy. 

Shirley is from Christchurch where she worked in local government and social services. She is a passionate advocate for youth development, social justice, educational equity and economic inclusion.

Jonathan Longstaff, Project Support – STEM / Youth Employability 

Jonathan provides administrative and logistical support to COMET Auckland- Te Hononga Akoranga’s STEM and Youth Employability teams. Originally from the USA, he has a BA (cum laude) in History and a Diploma in Computer Graphic Design. Prior to joining in 2018, Jonathan juggled freelance design work and fulltime parenting for nearly a decade. He is passionate about education and has previously worked in museums, both in the USA and NZ, including Auckland Museum.

Jonathan Longstaff
Ying Yang

Ying Yang, SouthSci Manager

Ying is the Manager for SouthSci, the participatory science platform in south Auckland, and for the newly established WeSTEM programme in west Auckland.  She works with communities, schools, businesses and scientists to develop research projects and to show young people the value of science and STEM careers.  

Ying has a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Auckland and previously worked in civil engineering for nine years, managing the delivery of infrastructure projects throughout New Zealand and the Pacific. She is passionate about promoting STEM education and bridging the gap between classroom theory and practical, engaging and inspiring science.

Will Flavell Māori Education Manager

Will Flavell, Education Māori Manager

Tēnā koutou katoa 

Ko Ngātokimatawhaorua me Tainui ngā waka. Ko Manaia me Rangitoto ngā maunga. Ko Whangārei Terenga Paraoa me Waipa ngā puna wai. Ko Ngā Puhi me Ngāti Maniapoto ngā iwi. Ko Ngāti Kahu o Torongare me Ngāti Pare ngā hapū. Ko Ngararatunua me Te Ahoroa ngā marae. Ko Will Flavell toku ingoa.

Tiheiwa Mauriora. 

Will grew up in Whangārei, attended Bream Bay College and is passionate about realising the potential of our young people. He is an experienced secondary school teacher of te reo Māori and Japanese. Will recently completed his PhD studies at Otago University on the learning experiences of non-Māori secondary school students learning te reo Māori. Will leads the Education Māori portfolio and strongly supports the flourishing of te reo Māori in Tāmaki Makaurau. Will is enthusiastic about ensuring that there is support for educational and employment opportunities for our rangatahi. Furthermore, his role is to challenge educational thinking and practice to do right by Māori learners.

Jilly Tyler, Talking Matters Interim Director

Jilly is driven to elevate great outcomes for children and their families. She has the privilege of guiding the strategy to achieve the Talking Matters mission, which is, to get everyone talking more to babies, toddlers and young children. She has extensive experience in early childhood education from, teaching, professional development and educational management.  Jilly has held senior roles in central government and includes leading early childhood policy implementation. Most recently Jilly has worked in community facing projects that combine data and measurement to support organisations to achieve impact. 

Jilly Tyler
Madeleine Sheahan

Madeleine Sheahan, Talking Matters Operations Director

Madeleine became Operations Manager for Talking Matters in January 2019. This represented a completely new direction after a long career in film and TV where Madeleine’s key role was facilitating documentaries with cultural value and social impact. That work deepened a belief in the power of communication skills as a component of personal and societal wellbeing. She was attracted to Talking Matters by the unique, targeted message of the campaign and the power of the neurological science underpinning it. As the campaign expands from its initial scoping and research phases, Madeleine is managing the deployment of a small team which supports whānau, services and educators in getting everyone to talk more to babies and young children under three to ensure they reach their potential.

Tampy Bernard, Talking Matters Community Activator

Tampy joined COMET Auckland – Te Hononga Akoranga in 2020 as a Community Activator for the Talking Matters team. Father of four and first time stay at home dad with son Hawaiki, Tampy took part in the Talking Matters to Tāmaki movement in 2019. After seeing first hand the successful results of the programme, Tampy became a whānau to whānau coach for Talking Matters, which quickly accelerated his passion to help educate others of the importance of quality communication with children from 0 – 3yrs. Tampy is a fluent speaker of Gagana Sāmoa and is driven to see children have equal education opportunities in Aotearoa. Tampy brings with him 10 years experience advocating for the rights of Pacific and Māori in the workplace as a frontline senior Union Delegate.

Tampy Bernard Talking Matters Community Activator
Hana Tuwhare Talking Matters Community Activator

Hana Tuwhare, Talking Matters Community Activator

Tēnā tātou katoa… Ko Putahi tōku maunga, Ko Wairoro tōku awa, Ko Ngatokimatawhaorua tōku waka, Ko Kohewhata tōku marae, Ko Te Uri o Hua, Ngati Korokoro, Ngati Tautahi, Te Popoto ōku hapū. He uri nō Ngāpuhi kowhao rau… Tēnei te mihi maioha ki te hāpori nō ngā hau e whā.

Hana joined the COMET Auckland – Te Hononga Akoranga team in January 2020 as a Community Activator for Talking Matters. Hana trained as a Speech & Language Therapist and explored whanaungatanga in her honours research. As a second language learner and speaker of te reo Māori, she is passionate about combining her skills to support the revitalisation of te reo from the beginning of life by creating rich language environments for pēpi and tamariki. She believes te reo Māori me ngā tikanga me ngā matauranga Māori are key in creating meaningful community led action that affirms the positive identity of whānau, hapū and iwi.

Emma Quigan

Emma Quigan, Talking Matters Community Activator 

Emma trained and practiced as a Speech & Language Therapist before taking up a position focusing on professional development and sector capability for the Ministry of Education.  She joined Talking Matters at its inception and leads community-based initiatives that design and support coaching models to wrap rich language environments around babies and children at home and in ECEs. Emma is studying for her Masters in Education at with Prof. Jan Gaffney and Dr Rae Si'ilata at Auckland University.

Anabel Fernandez

Dr Anabel Fernandez, Talking Matters Innovation Lead

Ana has a background in social science, communication, and social innovation. As Talking Matters Innovation lead Ana brings to the team her passion for equity and her critical thinking. Ana’s role is to keep a robust connection between Talking Matters’ strategy and action. Her experience creating and implementing culturally affirming strategies for social innovation support the team to deliver the TM Kaupapa while keeping whānau and communities at the centre as agents of change.

Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, her research and professional practice have focused on cultural identity and culturally affirming ways of building knowledge, enabling action and enabling social change. Ana recently completed her PhD in social science with a study about how Caribbean people in Aotearoa construct her identity. As part of this study, Ana worked alongside her community in New Zealand to develop a new methodology grounded in Caribbean practices and worldviews.

As a migrant and speaker of English as a second language, Ana is passionate about the importance of heart languages and cultures in the wellbeing if whānau and pēpi. 

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