Our Team

The Secret Garden is currently building a team of talented, experienced early childhood educators.  If you love children and have a real passion for education and learning we'd love to hear from you.  

Jodi Walker

Owner / Operator 


Jodi has always had a love for children and education.  With both her Mum and sister having established two successful preschools, early childhood education is in the blood.

After an eleven year career in the NZ Police, including working as an investigator with the child protection team, front line policing and an overseas deployment Jodi and her husband Simon decided to move to Waimauku and start a family of their own.  


​Now with two preschool aged children, Jodi has succumbed to the pull of working in early childhood education and has fufilled her long held dream of opening a centre of her own.   Fresh air, mud pies and jumping in puddles are just as important to Jodi as preparing children with the skills they need to develop and thrive out in the big wide world.  

Vanessa Peterson

Head Teacher


With 13 years of early childhood education experience, Vanessa has a genuine love for teaching.  She is thrilled to work in a profession which provides the daily rewards of watching children grow and develop into special little people.


She looks forward to meeting parents and families in the area who are looking to give their children a real Kiwi preschool experience - filled with gardening, gumboots, climbing trees and lots of fun!

A born and bred West Aucklander, Vanessa loves nature and the beautiful west coast beaches where she can often be found walking her dogs Chloe and Albert with her partner Stuart.  An avid reader, she's also a keen painter and photographer, but loves spending time with her family above all else. 

Michelle Wagstaff

Early Childhood Teacher


Having grown up in Kapiti, near Wellington, Michelle has lived and taught all around New Zealand and the world, but is now proud to call Whenuapai home.  With a Bachelor of Education Early Years from Massey University, Michelle has been teaching for 6 years including a year teaching abroad in Germany.  


Hugely passionate about the early years of education for children, Michelle believes a child's learning journey should be a fun and exciting time, where a love for learning is fostered.   Her teaching places an emphasis on valuing each child's interests and curiosities - developing key skills along the way.


When she's not walking her dog Marley, Michelle can be found training for and competing in triathlons. A fan of crossfit, she enjoys reading, spending time with friends and travelling whenever she can. 

Sophia Zandehbizadeh

Early Childhood Teacher 


Sophia is in her third year of study and UNITEC and is curently working towards her Bachelor of Teaching, Early Childhood Education. 


Sophia is especially interested in the use of Arts in education as she has been dancing for ten years and also teaches a range of dance classes in Kumeu. She has many younger cousins and has always been dubbed the 'second mummy' of them. Her Grandma was a Kindergarten teacher, so teaching is in her blood! 


Sophia is excited to get to know you and your children! 



Toni Bradley

Early Childhood Teacher in Training


Toni is in her second year of study and UNITEC and is curently working towards her Bachelor of Teaching, Early Childhood Education. 


While studying towards a nursing degree and on work experience at Starship hospital, Toni realised that her heart was in Early Childhood Education. 

Toni is interested in the outdoors and hot to integrate "messy play" with children. She loves playing netball and interacting with kids.  


Toni  excited to get to know you and your children!