The Team

Meet the teaching team at Harakeke:

Gundula Montag-Ruebsam


“My name is Gundula. I live right next door with my partner Johannes. We have 2 grown up children. Both Johannes and I were born and raised in Germany  more than half a decade ago and came to live in NZ in 1986—the best place to be!

I have been either training or working in the Early Childhood sector ever since I left
secondary school, both back in Germany in my younger years where I trained as a Kindergarten teacher and again here in NZ where I gained a postgraduate Diploma in Teaching People with Special Teaching Needs.
I consider myself as being very lucky that I knew at a very young age what I wanted to do, where my passion was and still is.

Establishing Harakeke is the result of this passion and a dream I held for a long time.

As a child I was fortunate to grow up in an environment where nature was there to be investigated and explored fully. Not alone but together with a group of neighbourhood children. We were able to walk into a nearby small forest and had meadows right at our door steps. Playing outside, exploring ‘our' world together, we learned about relationships, problem solving, risk taking, making decisions, choices, dealing with conflict, understanding concepts and  developing working theories about the physical world around us.

I want Harakeke to be the place where your children can have similar positive learning experiences and where happy, joyful childhood memories are created.”

Nicole Fischer

Many years ago I trained and worked in Germany as an educator in the Early Childhood sector (but unfortunately this qualification isn’t recognised with NZQA). My love for nature and my partner Bill brought me to New Zealand in 2002.

When my son Leon started preschool, he chose the free movement and natural space at Harakeke - and so did I.

I always had a passion for children and the desire to work with them and their families, so I was very excited when over time I was offered the opportunity to be a part of the Harakeke Teaching Team. 



Truus van der Wel

I emigrated in 1998 with my husband Ruurd from the Caribbean to New Zealand (originally from Holland). We settled in a little rural town called Cheviot where our two daughters Tess and Zeta grew up on a sheep and beef farm.

My passion for being with young children started when I was eighteen years old and worked one year as a au-pair for a family with three girls in Paris. Once my own children started preschool, I was asked to join the team as a relieving teacher which evolved in retraining myself as a Early Childhood Educator and obtaining in 2010 a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning (Early Childhood). I have worked for several years as a educator in a small rural preschool in Cheviot and have been part of the board of trustees. I also volunteered in different roles for Cheviot Plunket.

We moved in 2013 with the family to Nelson where I worked for three years as a educator at Rutherford Street Kindergarten. I was privileged to work with children and their families from many different ethnicities.

Spending time in nature and learning about the natural environment has been a great interest throughout my life. I fully believe in Harakeke’s philosophy which emphasizes the important role nature plays in children’s holistic development. I enjoy practicing yoga, creating wholesome food and being in the outdoors with my family and our dog Max.


Nyssa Lewis-Smith

Ciao, mi chiamo Nyssa. I am a Kiwi/Scot, having spent my life dancing between NZ and the U.K.  I met my partner Eugenio whilst working at an international school in Rome and persuaded him to hop on a plane and join me in embracing life in Aotearoa; he is also an Early Childhood teacher. We have a son, Luigi, who was fortunate to spend his preschool years here at Harakeke. He now continues his learning journey at school.

I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to work/play at Harakeke. I am passionate about building respectful and nurturing relationships with nga tamariki and their whānau as I believe that the relationship is key in laying down the foundations in a young child's learning journey! I enjoy providing opportunities for children to express and explore their creativity and imagination, using a range of artistic tools and canvases. I also love exploring the wonderful outdoors, and if there's water involved, I'll be there.

I completed my studies at Victoria University in Wellington, gaining a BA/BTeach degree in Early Childhood Education and English Literature. I also have a diploma in Multimedia Design and Digital Animation from Cumbria Institute of the Arts in England.

I look forward to getting to know you and your child as your child embarks on their learning journey here at Harakeke.