Denise Bruns

Head of Learning Area (HOLA) Technology


Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) PostgradCert Education (Digital Technologies) Diploma of Teaching

Denise has worked at Mount Aspiring College since 2004, bringing her skills and knowledge to growing our school’s technology learning area, a dynamic field of knowledge that poses many opportunities and challenges for young people.

As a specialist in computer science, Denise derives immense satisfaction from helping demystify how computers - really just boxes of metals and wires - can do so much great stuff in the universe. Denise’s focus is on enabling students to learn to use their digital devices to perform tasks as efficiently and as intuitively as possible.

She leads a team of dedicated teachers who all enjoy designing and delivering quality educational outcomes with a focus on project-based courses that promote learning that can be applied in real-world situations.

Denise is an active outdoors person and enjoys conservation and getting out into our remarkable local environment.

Lincoln Bruce

Head of Learning Area (HOLA) Science


Bachelor of Science (Zoology) PostGradDip Wildlife Management

Lincoln has been teaching at Mount Aspiring College for 15 years and in addition to heading up our science learning area, he also teaches general science and chemistry.

He began his teaching career at Waiuku College working there for several years followed by several years at Newlands College in Wellington.

In addition to Lincoln’s career as an educator, he also worked for several years at an Invermay agricultural research station on sheep breeding trials (sheep genetics) and in resource management at Southland Regional Council (coastal resources).

He has also been a contributing author to a paper published in the NZ Journal of Zoology on the topic of predator/prey relationships around yellow-eyed penguin colonies.

Karen Gilfedder

Head of Learning Area (HOLA) Social Sciences


Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Economics and History PostgradDip Education PostgradCert Digital and Collaborative Learning.

Since 2009, Karen has been an enthusiastic member of the teaching staff here at Mount Aspiring College, teaching in a variety of areas such as Integrated Studies, Social Studies, Economics, Business and Financial Capability. Karen was Head of Commerce as well as a Dean for Year 9 and 10 students before taking on the role of Head of Social Sciences in 2019.

Karen has a background in finance and investments which took her on many adventures to different parts of the world, before eventually settling in Wānaka. Many of her experiences in those years have shaped Karen’s approach to working with students in the classroom. Karen firmly believes in the importance of positive relationships and bringing the real world into the classroom to ensure all students' learning experiences are relevant to their lives. This is what Karen believes can equip our students for success in their future and help them better participate in our society. 

Karen has a strong sense of community and cherishes getting to know her students outside of the classroom. Over her years at MAC and in Wānaka, Karen has been involved in many areas outside of the classroom such as the Duke of Edinburgh award, Spirit of Adventure, girls rugby, MANC netball and more recently helping out with the William Pike Challenge and the Upper Clutha junior rugby club.

Caitlin Harvey

Head of Learning Area (HOLA) Languages


Bachelor of Physical Education PostGradDip Physical Education PostGradDip Teaching

A thirst for languages has long been a feature of Caitlin’s life. Caitlin lived in France for three years where she studied French and also taught English as a Second Language (ESOL) for the Chamber of Commerce and at Colmar University in northeastern France. In addition, Caitlin lived in Japan where she acquired Japanese language skills and has also studied German to tertiary level. She now teaches Spanish at MAC.

Caitlin seeks to make her classes fun and engaging to encourage her students to experience the same enjoyment she has always found in learning languages and discovering the cultural contexts that underpin them. 

When she is not teaching, Caitlin loves indulging her passion for both outdoor pursuits and languages through time spent in the outdoors, with her family, and travelling. 

Emily McRae

Head of Learning Area (HOLA) Arts


Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English Literature PostGradDip Teaching LTCL Teaching Diploma in Speech and Drama (Trinity College)

As a senior drama teacher and head of drama and performing arts learning for two decades, Emily has a deep understanding of how the processes used to explore and create all kinds of arts can allow young people to become like themselves, rather than more like everyone else.

Over many years, Emily has observed the willingness of young people to be vulnerable and honest in this process and it’s their honesty that inspires Emily to keep walking beside them and helping them to understand the world they stand in and their place within it, and the valuable life skills they can gain through the performing arts and arts education. 

Emily has been at Mount Aspiring College since 2012 and head of our arts learning area since 2018. Prior to joining our team, she taught at Rangiora High School and Wakatipu High School. In addition to her leadership and teaching, Emily is also the support teacher for MAC’s student-led Cultural Committee. 

She has directed numerous major high school musical productions, as well as a range of senior performances for the public. Emily loves health and fitness and lives at Glendhu Station with her husband John and her children Robbie and Nieve who also attend Mount Aspiring College.

Rachel O’Connell

Head of Learning Area (HOLA) Mathematics and Statistics


Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Mathematics GradDip Secondary Teaching GradDip Jewellery Design

For Rachel, being an educator is all about building relationships, teaching to the individual student, and recognising that students bring different stories and perspectives to their learning. In line with this approach, Rachel encourages her students to help each other and explain their reasoning so everyone can benefit from understanding different ways of thinking. 

Now in her eleventh year of teaching, and currently studying for a Master in Educational Leadership, Rachel started at Mount Aspiring College in 2010 and has also taught in Dunedin and in London. Despite taking short breaks from her teaching career, Rachel finds that teaching keeps calling her back, such is her passion for educating young people and her enjoyment of their energy and creativity.

Rachel is involved in sporting activities and creative events in our local community and also loves travel, adventuring, playing sport, coaching rowing and netball, making jewellery, playing guitar and learning. 

Pete Smalley

Head of Learning Area (HOLA) Distance and vocational


Bachelor of Education (Hons)

Pete has been involved in education in one way or another all his working life, enjoying a varied career working as a teacher in the UK and New Zealand, in management training and consultancy, running outdoors programmes for groups and individuals, and in aviation (helicopters).

Pete is head of our school’s distance and vocational programmes and also teaches outdoor pursuits and students who participate in the Central Otago Youth Employability Programme (COYEP). 

For Pete, supporting young people to learn and improve is what he enjoys most about teaching.  His approach focuses on teamwork - with his students, his colleagues, and with the parents, caregivers and families of his students. He sees parents and caregivers as integral to the success of his students so he invests the time and effort needed to build relationships with students’ whānau.

Pete moved with his family to New Zealand from England in 2005 and enjoys all outdoor sports, especially climbing, mountaineering and biking. 

Neil Stuart

Head of Learning Area Physical Education and Health


Bachelor of Physical Education (BPhed) GradDip Teaching

Neil has been working as an educator in the physical education field for more than ten years, most recently at Mount Aspiring College where he has been our head of learning for physical education and health and also a teacher of PE and health for the past four years. 

Prior to joining our team at MAC, Neil worked at Cromwell College for three years and also at Rosehill College in South Auckland. On top of PE and health, he has taught a range of subjects, including outdoor education, social studies, maths and economics, and has also worked as an outdoor guide for seven years.  

Neil works hard to make his lessons accessible, engaging and fun and to maximise the opportunities afforded by living in such an incredible natural environment, with students able to enjoy many hands-on learning experiences that help them develop valuable life skills. 

Outside of school, Neil enjoys anything related to sport, including tramping, biking and skiing. He also coaches the MAC first XI football team, is a member of the Wānaka men’s netball team, and loves spending time with his family.

Joanne Waide

Head of Learning Area (HOLA): English


Bachelor of Arts (English and Art History) GradDip Secondary Education

Joanne’s love of learning centres on student engagement through critical discussion. She enjoys teaching the foundations of literacy as she believes the mastery of these skills is essential to empowering students to succeed. Joanne’s approach to teaching focuses on promoting healthy relationships based on respect for the student and their individual talents. She believes that students should view their world in their learning environment and that the texts that they are taught should be morally responsible. Joanne also has a passion for the teaching of Māori tikanga and the rich experiences this brings to the classroom.

Joanne has been an educator for 23 years, working in a range of education settings and roles including: Head of English at Columba College, Assistant Junior English at Kings High School,  Junior English Lecturer at Otago University Dunedin College of Education, as a national English moderator and external English marker, Literacy Co-ordinator at Columba College, Head of Gifted Education at Kings High School, and as a secondary-level English teacher for two decades. 

In addition to her leadership of the English department and her classroom teaching, Joanne is the MAC choir director, and also introduced a Te Wananga 'He Papa Tikanga' course to staff, and assisted with facilitation of Tikanga Māori for staff professional development.

Joanne’s many talents have seen her coach regional debating teams, present at national English conference workshops, work as a vocal coach, be a song leader at local churches, engage with local Rotary and Lions clubs for regional student speech-making competitions, and collaborate with local iwi in Dunedin and Wanaka to assist the education of students in Te Ao Māori. 

Tiffany Kemp

Head of Learning Area (Year 7)


Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) BEd (Education) and DipTeach

Tiffany relishes her role as Year 7 Curriculum Leader and the opportunity it gives her to guide students through their new stage of academic and social learning. She recognises that for possibly the first time, some students need to learn to manage themselves, their studies, and their responsibilities and interests, all with less parental involvement. Tiffany’s goal is to give her students enriching learning experiences while also introducing new ideas and skills to establish a ‘safe landing’ in the larger academic community that makes up our school.

Over her career as an educator, Tiffany has specialised in Years 7 and 8, starting at Watlington Intermediate in Timaru followed by 18 years at Alexandra Primary in Year 8 and management roles.Tiffany also won a scholarship to live in France and attend university for a year where she also taught part- time in a French school. 

Tiffany has spent many years coaching netball, being a sports coordinator, directing school productions and here at MAC, she is the teacher-in-charge of Sticks 'n' Stones, our student-led anti-bullying programme.  

Tiffany loves travelling, visiting different cultures and exploring their traditions and history and you can often find her sneaking away to go camping and ride a trail somewhere.  Spending time with family and making heaps of memories is her most treasured pastime. 

Emily Richardson

Year 8 Curriculum Leader


Bachelor of Arts with Honours (Spanish) Diploma of Languages (German) GradDip (Linguistics) Master of Teaching and Learning (Distinction)

Emily is a talented linguist, having spent her last year of high school as an exchange student in Paraguay, and on semester exchanges in Germany (Universitat Tubingen) and Spain (Universidad de Granada) during her university studies. She also undertook a year of teaching in China which inspired her to re-train as a teacher. 

After completing her teacher training, Emily taught at Murrays Bay Intermediate before joining our team at Mount Aspiring College in 2019 where she is now the Year 8 curriculum leader.

Emily’s focus as an educator is on helping students develop the curiosity, tenacity and excitement about learning that can help them make the most of the opportunities available to them. 

When she is not working, Emily loves learning languages, reading, travelling, crafts, and watching documentaries. 

Michelle Suddaby

Head of Learning Area (Year 9)


Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Master of Education

Michelle has been teaching for more than two decades in New Zealand and overseas and in addition to being our Year 9 curriculum leader, she is also the co-head of literacy for the college. 

In her education practice, Michelle focuses on supporting students to develop their understanding of the learning process and of themselves as learners. She recognises the benefits of supporting and scaffolding students to help them develop their skills and knowledge and most importantly, to promote their confidence and self belief. 

As a committed life-long learner, Michelle has authored numerous papers on technology in education and educational leadership and she is also currently learning Spanish. 

Michelle is an avid traveller and loves the outdoors, especially family tramping trips. She also enjoys looking after her family’s two goats, cheesemaking, reading, gardening, cooking and skiing.