Our Team

Our incredible team of teachers is passionate, dedicated, experienced and most of all caring.

Our unique and close-knit environment supports strong relationships between teachers and families – we are all part of the Step Ahead whaanau – and your beliefs, culture and expectations will always be valued by our team. We look forward to meeting you.

  • Gowri Paary - Step Ahead

    Gowri Paary


    Gowri changed career direction in 2012 from a scientist to an educator. She made this decision because she found joy in giving knowledge and working with young minds.

    Gowri completed a Graduate Diploma in Education after spending a year in Australia on a working holiday. She then crossed the ditch and completed a Master in Education, specialising in global studies in education at the University of Waikato in 2017.

    Her passion for early childhood education stems from the love of play-based learning and engaging with young, curious minds.

    She is excited to bring creativity, laughter, music and joy to the children at Step Ahead.

    Gowri is fluent in three languages: English, Bahasa Malaysia and Tamil. She is an avid theatre actor, kids yoga instructor, loves to sew and play music. She has even authored two children books!

    She lives in Whangarei with her husband, two young children and her puppy who all keep her very happy!

  • Lena Newport - Step Ahead

    Lena Newport


    Lena comes to us with a background in active movement holding a Bachelor of Sport and Recreation as well as a Graduate Diploma of Teaching Early Childhood. She also currently teaches Jazz and Tap dance so some of you may know her through her dance classes for preschoolers. She believes that every child is unique and is committed to supporting tamariki to develop their confidence to discover who they are and how to make sense of our big world. She is a kind and caring teacher who is calm and understanding.

    She is fluent in Swiss German and loves the outdoors, gardening, sailing, dancing and baking.

  • Erin Petersen - Step Ahead

    Erin Petersen


    Erin comes to us with over 10 years’ experience in early childhood education. She graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Education – Primary, but upon completion discovered her true passion for the early years and has never looked back. Erin spent roughly 8 years teaching 3-5 year olds before making the change to an infant/toddler centre in 2018. In 2020 Erin completed a Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood before taking a short break in 2021 to welcome her first child.

    Erin is super excited to be joining the Step Ahead team, hoping all her years of knowledge and experience can help create a true home away from home feel, by building strong quality relationships with tamariki and their whaanau. She is a natural nurturer, with calm and caring qualities.

    With a young child taking up most of her time now, when able Erin enjoys walks and coffee dates with friends, traveling and small trips, always has some creative project on the go and quality family time.

  • Vanetta Ras - Step Ahead

    Vanetta Ras


    Vanetta started working in early years education in Auckland in 1998. Finding a passion for seeing young children grow and learn, she decided to become an early childhood teacher. Vanetta graduated in 2002 with a Diploma in Teaching Early Childhood Education. Once she graduated, she left for the United Kingdom, where she spent 3 months backpacking around Europe before settling in London where she taught in a Nursery class while completing her BA (Hons) in Child and Youth Studies.

    Returning to New Zealand in 2016, she settled in Whangarei and workied in both an infant and toddler centre and an over 2’s centre. During 2020/21 Vanetta went on to complete her Teacher Education Refresher, ensuring she was up to date with current policies and practices in teaching in Aotearoa,

    Having 2 boys has kept her quite busy. They enjoy camping every summer and time at the beach. Vanetta enjoys spending time with friends, going to a cafe or for a walk, but is also happy sitting down and enjoying a good book.

  • Cherie Coster - Step Ahead

    Cherie Coster

    Relieving Teacher

    Cherie is a valued member of our teaching team and has been relieving for us all of this year. She comes with a natural approach to children which is caring and attentive. Being a mother herself and very involved with the local school, she understands the sometimes hectic life of a family.

  • Monique Dodds - Step Ahead

    Monique Dodds

    Relieving Teacher

    Monique always has children at the center of her teaching approach. As a mother, she is caring, nurturing and loving to all the children she teaches. Monique is a cherished member of our Step Ahead family.