Our People

Tracie Phua:  Head Of School



I was blessed with a second career in early childhood education at TMS since April 2003 after a rewarding one in information technology in Singapore. I find it both humbling and a privilege to work with children in their formative years, sharing their journey towards becoming confident and competent life long learners. I discovered the Montessori Method while looking for the right preschool for my own children in Singapore. I hold a B. Ed (ECE) from AUT University and a Montessori Diploma (2.5 - 6 years) from St Nicholas Montessori Training Centre (London).

My studies into the theories and practice of early childhood education reaffirmed my belief that the Montessori Method is unsurpassed in supporting the holistic learning of young children. As Head of School, my vision is to continue making TMS a special community where adults "follow the child" to help them reach their fullest potential. 

I enjoy reading, travelling, watching the occasional musical and trying out the various cuisines available in Auckland. I make up for any over-indulgence in the latter by taking walks along the many beaches of the East Coast Bays, swimming, and working out at the gym when time permits.


Jessica Kim :  Casa guide



 I came to New Zealand at the end of 2008 from South Korea, where I began my studies in early childhood education. After experiencing the joys of New Zealand, I decided to continue my degree in ECE at AUT University. I took the opportunity to hone my language and early childhood teaching skills by volunteering at Sunday school and working across ECE centres as a reliever before and during my course at AUT.  

During my third year, I decided to specialise in the Montessori pedagogy, as I was fascinated by how the method allows each child to be respected for who they are and who they will become. I was able to reflect and deepen my own teaching philosophies during my final year. I see the teacher’s role as one that advocates for the empowerment of children to become independent, self-motivated, responsible and respectful. I believe that when teachers provide the prepared environment, opportunities and choices to support children to achieve their full potential; the children will grow as valuable and joyful contributors within their family, community and wider society.  My passion for the Montessori method of education inspired me to pursue an AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) diploma in Montessori Education  (3-6) so that I can continue to give my best to help children meet their fullest potential.

During my spare time, I enjoy travelling, crafts, reading, watching movies and listening to music.     


Manuela Trujillo Llano : Casa Guide



Hola, my name is Manuela and I come from Colombia, a beautiful Spanish speaking country. I am the eldest of three siblings and my family lives in my home country. I have been living in New Zealand for eleven years, and I feel so thankful and fortunate for having the opportunity to live in this fantastic country.

I am a qualified and registered educator, and I really enjoy learning alongside young children. I find the Montessori Method as a life philosophy beyond an educational pedagogy, and I love knowing that Montessori philosophy is about finding ourselves in the universe, being grateful for each aspect that life brings to us daily, and growing as integral human beings who look for social justice and a peaceful world at every moment of our lives.

I enjoy the sensitivity to children’s individual needs, organisation, discipline, concentration, independence, freedom within boundaries, meaningfulness, and gratitude needed to develop and succeed in a Montessori learning environment. I love following the Montessori approach, learning more about it, and exploring it alongside the children and their families. I have embarked on the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Diploma in Montessori education for 3-6 year olds and am excited to use the skills and understanding acquired through this to better support our tamariki at Titoki Montessori Casa.  

Ailin Liew :  Casa Guide



Kia ora, my name is Ai Lin! I am a qualified registered ECE teacher graduating from Massey University in 2011. I have worked as a music lecturer in Malaysia for seven years  focusing on music education before moving to New Zealand in 2003.

I love working with young children, especially in the area of music and art. Children's quest for learning has always intrigued me. Outside of work,  I enjoy  cooking, gardening and playing musical instruments such as the violin and piano. I am blessed with a supportive family comprising my husband Sam and my daughter Caitlyn. 




I have been very lucky to find Titoki after returning to regular work. I was previously a stay home Mum to my three children for 11 years, during this time I have moved from Torbay to where we live with my family in Dairy Flat.

My grandmother, mother and father also live on the property. 4 generations and numerous pets. Prior to having children I worked as an IT engineer and project manager for Foodstuffs NZ. I met my husband Steve in the industry where he still works.

I travelled a lot with my career and enjoy having the privilege of working part time now, allowing me to balance my family and work life. I love to cook and enjoy gardening and outdoor activities. I also enjoy a good read and a very eclectic taste in music.

"Titoki had a major influence on our family. Along with following the Montessori philosophies we often sort extra guidance on the best way to deal with situations involving Taylor and Jake at home. It is testament to the school that we can truly say that many of our family values and attitudes were shaped by what we learnt while Taylor and Jake were at Titoki.

The staff showed a high level of commitment, professionalism and dedication to not only the students and the school but to the families and extended families as well. ..We are very grateful for the contribution Titoki Montessori has made to our family personally and we unreservedly recommend Titoki Montessori and encourage people to visit to see what we mean.”

— Sarah and Adam Bicknell