Keynote Speakers

Deborah Wood

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DCE – Te Tāhū Whare, Evaluation and Review Māori, Te Tari Arotake Mātauranga | Education Review Office

The challenge and opportunity in questioning: evaluation and self-reflection in education leadership

As a new teacher, Deb Wood viewed the ‘review office’, like many around her at the time did -to be feared. A view, which she found quickly challenged upon her first review.

Over a career that has spanned schools, scholarship, and the Education Review Office; Deb has seen time, and time again the power of evaluation as a catalyst for improvement.

In this keynote, Deb will share insights from the chalkboard, education research, rangahau Māori and review that show how the right question, with the right intention can make impact. And, talk about how the power of questioning, has enabled her, and her team to lean into challenge, and lead with authenticity.

Deputy Chief Executive Te Tāhū Whare

Deborah has a rich background in teaching and education leadership, with a diverse pool of experience gained from across ERO in school and kura evaluation, system research, methodology and professional practice. She joined ERO in 2017. Deborah has led foundational rangahau Māori, building an in-depth understanding of conditions for Māori learner success within kaupapa Māori and English-medium education. This includes system evaluation to drive decision making. She leads a cross-functional team to support the best outcomes for Māori learners across the education system; and a focus on growing what the system understands about kaupapa Māori, te reo Māori and te ao Māori to benefit all learners.

Joce Nuttall

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Executive Dean - Education
University of Canterbury

Professor Joce Nuttall is Amo Matua | Executive Dean in Te Kaupeka Ako | Faculty of Education at the University of Canterbury. Joce’s expertise is in learning to lead in education, workforce policy development, and curriculum theory in the early years. Her current research focuses on the learning needs of school and ECE professionals who are working to support migrant teachers commencing work in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Joce has spent the last ten years leading a dedicated research program focused on high-leverage professional development methodologies for leadership development in education, particularly in early childhood education. The outcome of this research has been a new theory and methodology for leadership development in education, focused on leaders’ capacity to take a systems-level and outcomes-oriented view of educational institutions.


Dr Simon Breakspear

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Simon is a researcher, advisor and speaker on educational leadership, policy and change. Simon develops frameworks and tools that make evidence-based ideas actionable and easy to understand. Over the last decade his capability building work has given him the opportunity to work with over 100,000 educators across more than 10 countries.

Simon is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at UNSW. He serves as an advisor to the NSW Department of Education and sits on an expert steering committee for the Australia Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). Simon received his BPsych (Hons) from UNSW, his MSc in Comparative and International Education from the University of Oxford and his PhD in Education from the University of Cambridge. Simon began his work in education as a high school teacher.

Jacoba Matapo

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Talofa lava, Kia Orana, Kia Ora, I'm thrilled to announce my upcoming presentation at the 2024 NZEALS conference, where I'll delve into the theme of "Leading with Optimism." My talk will explore vibrant Pacific leadership concepts, weaving in the rich philosophies of the Pacific and their impact on the practice of optimism in educational leadership. Join me for an insightful journey into how these unique perspectives enhance and redefine optimism in leadership!

Soifua ma ia manuia

Jacoba has ancestral ties to Siumu Samoa and Leiden Holland. She is the first Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific at Auckland University of Technology. She is an Associate Professor in Pacific Early Childhood Education with over 15 years of experience in educational leadership, spanning ITE programme leadership, University leadership and leadership in ECE. She has led key Pasifika education projects, anchoring Pacific philosophy and pedagogies for learner success. Her work advocates for the value of Pacific indigenous knowledge systems in education and the possibilities of transformation through relational ecologies, story-telling and the art of embodied literacies.

Vitale Lafaele

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Vitale spent 7 years in the NZ SAS and joined the Police where he served for 30 years. He rose through the ranks to Commander Armed Offenders Squad, Commander STG Counter Terrorist Squad, and Area Commander Counties Manukau. Under his leadership, tactical squads deployed in some of the most nationally significant events such as the Napier siege, Urewera anti-terrorist raids, and the New Lynn hostage rescue.

Sadly, Vitale suffered major health issues and had to leave the Police. His world came crashing down now disabled and unemployed which led to an 18-month journey as he navigated his new life.

In 2018, Vitale reset gaining full time employment and launching his keynote speaking and executive leadership business. In 2022 he was appointed Principal Advisor Leadership & Performance in the Public Sector, coaching and mentoring senior leadership teams in the largest Government agency in New Zealand.

Vitale’s journey is fascinating, powerful, and impactful. His story so compelling he was invited to keynote as a TEDx Speaker in 2021. In 2022 he was approached to share his story by Harper Collins NZ, his autobiography released in August 2023 is titled: A Canoe Before the Wind - An Immigrant Son's Story of Family, Adversity and Courage.