Speakers’ Bureau

Are you looking for a speaker who is a specialist in an area of gifted education to come to your region? Is cost an issue for your school or centre or group or affiliation? giftEDnz can help! We are excited to let you know about the Speakers’ Bureau. These are current members, or past and present Board members, who are willing to speak to professional groups on matters related to gifted education. The speakers will give their time and expertise, and giftEDnz will cover the cost of a speaker’s travel, accommodation (up to a specified value) and also pay an honorarium to the speaker.

Click here for more information on requesting a speaker, then apply to the Bureau here.

New to the Speakers’ Bureau!! Introducing…

Nadine Ballam
Nadine Ballam - photo - 2015Nadine is a primary trained teacher and a Lecturer at the University of Waikato. She teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students in the area of giftedness and talent, and supervises postgraduate research. Her recently completed PhD investigated the lived experiences of gifted and talented young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, which is an area of gifted education that she is passionate about continuing to explore. She also has an interest in risk and resilience amongst gifted learners, current issues in gifted education, and giftedness across the lifespan.

Nadine is on the editorial board of APEX: The New Zealand Journal of Gifted Education, and a member of giftEDnz. She publishes and presents regularly on aspects of giftedness and talent at national and international conferences.

Speaking topics:

  • Gifted and talented young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Current issues in gifted education in New Zealand (including conceptualisations of giftedness, identification, and provisions for gifted learners)
  • Risk and resilience amongst gifted learners
  • Giftedness in tertiary settings
  • Giftedness and talent across the lifespan

Brooke Trenwith

Brooke TrenwithBrooke works as part of the Cognition consultancy team and the Te Toi Tupu Gifted and Talented Education PLD, a Ministry of Education contract designed to support Principals and Teachers build their capability and develop effective, robust and transparent GATE programmes.

In her over 14 years of teaching, Brooke has taught students aged 3 to adult and has experience with NCEA at a national level.  She was the Assistant Director of an English Language School (primary) in Taiwan for over two years where her portfolios included curriculum development and teacher training.  Brooke has been a writer for the TKI Gifted and Talented website and her specialist secondary school subjects are Classical Studies, Art History, English and Social Studies.

Speaking topics:

  • Social and emotional needs of gifted students
  • NCEA and gifted students
  • Practical strategies for 2E students
  • Stress management for gifted students
  • Differentiation in practice
  • Secondary school study skills for gifted students
  • Complex thinking

Ann Easter

Ann EasterAnn is an experienced primary teacher who has a long-standing interest in gifted and talented education. Ann worked with schools in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region as a gifted education adviser for many years and has been involved in several Ministry of Education contracts in both gifted education and inclusive education. From 2003-2009, she held the role of National Coordinator: Gifted Education Advisory Support as part of a team based at the University of Waikato. Ann was an inaugural Board member of giftEDnz: The Professional Association for Gifted Education and was also a member of the former Ministry Advisory Group for Gifted and Talented Learners. Most recently she held the role of Project Leader for Te Toi Tupu Gifted and Talented Education Project in the North Island and is presently completing her PhD at the University of Waikato.

Speaking Topics:

    • Highly gifted students
    • Acceleration as an educational option for highly gifted students
    • School-wide approaches for identifying gifted students
    • Curriculum differentiation – meeting the needs of gifted students in the regular classroom
    • Developing effective home-school partnerships
    • Educational policy in relation to gifted students
    • Teacher professional learning and development

Anna Meuli
Anna MeuliAnna works for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education as Consultancy Manager, having worked as a Gifted Education Adviser, Lecturer and GATE Lead Teacher prior. Anna is a trained primary school teacher with a Master of Education Degree with a special education focus. Anna is highly empathetic and understanding towards the needs of gifted students and loves making a difference to their lives and education experiences.

Speaking Topics:

    • Guided inquiry into the concept of giftedness
    • Identification
    • Developing differentiated curriculum for gifted learners
    • Differentiation in practice
    • Understanding and supporting the social and emotional needs of gifted learners
    • Talent Development
    • Learning through universal concepts
    • Developing big ideas
    • Achieving depth and complexity
    • Conducting comprehensive GATE Self Review

Anne Sturgess
Anne SturgessAnne has been involved in the field of gifted education for approximately 30 years as a teacher (primary, secondary and tertiary), a parent, an adviser/facilitator to schools, a contributor to various publications and a presenter at conferences and workshops. She is committed to all students having every possible opportunity to engage with and enjoy learning at their appropriate level. Anne is currently employed by the University of Waikato as a Facilitator for two MOE contracts within the Te Toi Tupu consortium; Blended e-Learning and Gifted & Talented Education. She is also helping teach and coordinate in a new Professional Teaching and Learning Masters paper developed at the University of Waikato.

Speaking Topics:

  • Using digital technologies to enhance learning for gifted students
  • Social/Emotional issues associated with gifted learners and practical ideas for addressing them
  • Authentic learning – who benefits most, why it’s so important, how to implement it, what the outcome might look like
  • The Autonomous Learner Model – Who – Why – How – What (for years 7-13)
  • Curriculum Design: Applying the NZ Curriculum
  • Whole-school process for establishing and maintaining effective gifted education practices (secondary)
  • Developing personalised pathways for gifted secondary students
  • Developing Individual Learning Programmes for gifted students with barriers to learning
  • Applying NCEA in ways that benefit gifted learners

Deb Walker
Deb ClarkDeb began working at Gifted Kids in 2002 and has held various roles over the years including teacher, Lead Teacher, Associate Principal and now CEO. She is passionate about leading positive change and, as a result of this, has played an integral part in the development of the Gifted Kids Curriculum, the Identification Process for students and the growth of the programme overall. She is avidly and actively committed to strength and sustainability for the programme. Deb has a Masters of Education degree, with a focus on gifted, through Massey University and has completed a Graduate Diploma in Not-For-Profit Management Business Management from Unitec. Although her CEO role is one of leadership, management and advocacy, working primarily with adults, she still jumps at the chance to work with our students, both present and alumni.

Speaking Topics:

  • My research on the Gifted Kids Alumni
  • Gifted Kids programme as an alternative curriculum for our gifted youth
  • Strength-based teaching for gifted children
  • Early Years

Janna Wardman
Janna WardmanJanna Wardman is a lecturer at the University of Auckland. She is an experienced secondary practitioner and administrator. Janna gained a M.Ed at the University of Melbourne in 2000 and a PhD at the University of Auckland in 2010. Janna has taught on undergraduate and masters courses on gifted education at the University of Auckland and supervises post-graduate students in the area of gifted. Research projects include investigating the learning experiences of gifted students, in addition to her core research area of academic acceleration. Janna continues to assist schools and parents on any question(s) relating to gifted education.

Speaking Topics: Janna says, “I am a teacher, a researcher, a parent and a grandparent. My interest in teaching and learning is professional and personal – and above all, practical. My aim is to use my experience to make the knowledge of the research accessible to all: to bridge the gap between ‘the ivory tower’ and ‘the chalk face’. The lack of implementation of full-year acceleration is just one area in gifted education where the evidence of good research is not underpinning current practices in schools. In both my teaching and academic careers, I have covered the range from early childhood to high school to doctoral level at university. I have first hand knowledge of the challenges faced by gifted students of all ages – and I have experienced the relief/joy with them as they achieve their goals. It is their stories that I would like to share.”


Jo Dean
Jo is a member of the GiftEDnz Association and is a founding committee member of the Special interest ‘Early years’ group. Through this voluntary role Jo has supported teachers build a sound understanding of working with young gifted children and identifying strategies to support children to reach their full potential. Jo has mentored teachers and emerging researchers to present at conferences and publish their work on giftedness in the early years. As part of this work, a new book has been released this year called “Giftedness in the Early Years: Informing, learning and teaching” Margrain, Murphy & Dean, 2015).

Recently, Jo has joined the regional central Cen GATE group and has facilitated connections between early childhood education and primary schools, building a stronger networking community to support teachers, gifted children and their families.

Jo is a registered teacher and has spent time as a kindergarten teacher and worked alongside gifted children and their parents. Jo currently works at Massey University, Institute of Education in Palmerston North and teaches within the Bachelor of Education (Early Years) and Graduate Diploma (Early childhood) teaching programme. Jo’s specialised area of teaching is ‘The arts’ particularly Visual Arts. Jo believes in life-long learning and is part way through doctoral study at University of Melbourne.

Speaking Topics:

  • Early Years in giftedness
  • Creativity
  • Transition to school
  • Sensitivities/ excitabilities
  • Approaches to learning

Louise Tapper
SBLouiseTapperLouise has been a passionate advocate in the field of gifted education for 18 years and a parent of gifted children for much longer! She was the Director of a cluster programme for gifted primary students in North Canterbury. She has tutored and lectured for various pre and post–service courses in gifted education and written and taught courses in parenting gifted children.

She helped to set up the steering committee for giftEDnz in 2007, has been a Board member since 2009 and is the current Chair. Louise has organised several conferences and events in gifted education nationally and locally, and presents nationally and internationally in the field. She is enthusiastic about supporting networking and research opportunities for professionals working in gifted education in New Zealand.

In 2014 Louise completed her PhD through the University of Canterbury in the area of gifted education, looking at the experiences of school in Aotearoa New Zealand for a group of gifted and talented adolescents, and in particular their understandings about achievement and underachievement. Currently, she works both as an independent researcher, and as a contracted researcher for The Collaborative for Research and Training in Youth Health and Development, in community-based youth related projects in Canterbury.

Speaking Topics:

      • Current conceptualisations/definitions of giftedness and talent – how do we define giftedness in Aotearoa New Zealand?
      • Understandings about achievement and underachievement for gifted students
      • Negotiating identity as a gifted and talented student in Aotearoa New Zealand schools. A suggested model of gifted and talented adolescent identity profiles within a New Zealand context
      • Developing positive relationships with parents and communities

Mary St George
Mary has taught gifted children in mainstream and specialist settings. She has taught at One Day School and as the Lead Teacher of Gifted Online. Mary was an occupational therapist before training as a teacher, and has also taught in special education. These experiences have contributed to a strong interest in twice exceptional learners – those children who are gifted but also have some area of disability or learning difficulty. Mary studied gifted education at Massey University and has presented at national and international conferences.

Speaking Topics:

  • How online and blended learning can help to meet the needs of gifted children in rural communities
  • Understanding and responding to the needs of gifted and twice exceptional students
  • The role of guided learner reflections in assisting gifted children to be active participants in defining their learning journeys

Melinda Webber
Melinda WebberMelinda is a primary trained teacher and a senior lecturer in the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice at the University of Auckland. She teaches on undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and supervises postgraduate students in the area of Maori identity, education and Maori conceptions of giftedness and talent. Her PhD investigated the role of race and ethnicity on the school engagement of early adolescents from multi-ethnic urban secondary schools. Gifted Maori students and Maori success ‘as Maori’ are areas of gifted education that she continues to explore. She also has an interest in the role of racial-ethnic identity on the resilience of gifted learners, particularly students from diverse cultural groups. In 2008 Melinda had a book published by NZCER called ‘Walking the space between: Identity and Māori/Pakeha’ and in 2015 Melinda edited a book with Professor Angus Macfarlane and Sonja Macfarlane titled ‘ Sociocultural realities: Exploring new horizons’.

Speaking Topics: Melinda says, “Gifted Māori students require opportunities and encouragement to develop their talents in responsive family, community and school environments, which simultaneously nurture their cultural identities alongside their gifts and talents. Gifted Māori students who are strong in their cultural identity and who learn in contexts where their culture is valued, are less likely to succumb to negative peer pressure and negative academic stereotypes, which undermine academic attainment and talent development. My research explores the socio-cultural complexities encountered by students who identify as both Māori and Gifted. It suggests ways forward in terms of helping gifted Māori students to nurture both their academic and Maori identities.”


Rosemary Cathcart
Rosemary CathcartRosemary has been involved in gifted education for some 30 years in a diversity of roles including programme developer & teacher, college of education tutor, advisor, conference & workshop presenter, author and proactive advocate, and has a particular interest in professional development in this field. Rosemary was founding director for its first decade of New Zealand’s first professional gifted education centre. She has been the organiser of several national conferences and of visits by leading international figures in the field. Rosemary is currently director of REACH Education, providing workshops and the Certificate of Effective Practice in Gifted Education, endorsed by the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development (US). She is also currently undertaking doctoral study.

Speaking Topics: Rosemary says, “I am happy to present on most aspects of gifted education, and to work with either a whole staff, a specific team within a school or management. I am particularly interested in (a) helping teachers build an insight into the world of the gifted child and the consequent learning needs that child has, and (b) helping teachers acquire effective practical skills which are realistically attainable in the regular classroom. Topics teachers seem most frequently to ask for include identification, differentiation made practical, literacy and gifted learners, acceleration, grouping, issues for management and coping with parents, but a wide range of other specific issues can come into this field.”


Sue Breen
Sue has been working with gifted children for nearly forty years.

Currently the National Director for the Gifted Education Centre, she is a Life member of both the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children and their Auckland Branch. She is a Board member of the Gifted Education Centre.

She has presented at national conferences on numerous occasions over the last twenty-five years, has presented at conferences overseas and has presented and organised subject-specific workshops for teachers, parents and students.

Sue developed the Small Poppies experiential preschool group in 1996 and trains and mentors teachers towards effective programmes for children in the early year. She is still working with young gifted children.

She believes in holistic, inclusive education for gifted children; the provision of authentic classroom experiences presenting challenge; and modeling from skilled, passionate teachers.

She brings a great deal of experience, enthusiasm and passion to the field of gifted education – especially, but not exclusively, within the NZ early years environment.

Speaking Topics:

  • Catering for young gifted children (in their regular settings) through easy to organize, hands-on, practical extension and enrichment activities
  • The characteristics of young gifted children and how to identify these children in your classrooms. or preschool settings
  • Understanding and responding to the emotional sensitivities of the very young who are also gifted
  • So I have a child in my class/session who has been identified as gifted. Help please!
  • Isn’t every child gifted?

Susan Hassall
SBSueHassallSusan is Headmaster of Hamilton Boys’ High School, a role which she has held for fifteen years, and which she enjoys very much.   As a teacher and as an educational leader, she has always taken a genuine interest in gifted education, and in meeting the needs of gifted students, particularly boys.

In pursuing this interest, she has led several initiatives at Hamilton Boys’, which have focused on gifted students.  She has also been a member of the Minister’s Advisory Group on Gifted Education for several years, and has supported the introduction of the giftEDnz Association through my role on the Establishment Board.

She offers a blend of experience and many years of professional development in the GATE area, and she looks forward to continuing to work proactively for gifted and talented students in NZ.

Speaking Topics: Susan says, “My expertise in the area of gifted students is primarily at secondary level, and is specific to those strategies which work best for boys. I have experience and knowledge in the development of differentiated curricula, and the pedagogy which works best for adolescent males.

I am also very experienced in change management, and in strategies which ensure optimum culture and environment, both physical and emotional.

In short, I have a story to tell, as well as advice about what works, and what doesn’t.”


Tracy Riley
Tracy RileyAssociate Professor Tracy Riley, Ph.D., specialises in gifted and talented education at Massey University in Palmerston North. She teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the field in addition to supervising postgraduate research. She publishes and presents widely at both national and international levels. In 2007, Tracy was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching and was the recipient of a national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award. Tracy is a Director of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education and SENG Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted, a delegate to the World Council for Gifted and Talented, a past member of the executive committee of the Ako Aoteoroa Academy of Tertiary Teaching Excellence and former inaugural chairperson of the board for giftEDnz: The Professional Association for Gifted Education. An active advocate for gifted and talented students, Tracy has served on numerous Ministry of Education advisory groups and has co-authored the Ministry handbook, Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting Their Needs in New Zealand Schools (2000, 2012).

Speaking Topics:

      • Differentiation across a continuum of approaches
      • Facilitating opportunities to engage with like-minded peers
      • Competitions
      • Developing research to underpin practice