2024 - who are we?

Leanne Heaps - Presiding Member

Hi, I became Chair of the Mataura School Board of Trustees at the start of term 4 2016. I am mum to Zoe (Year 6) and Lachlan (Year 4) my eldest son Max has just started at Southland Boys’ High School. My husband Mark and I live on his family sheep farm in Ferndale. I have a Bachelor of Business Studies majoring in Economics and a Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies both from Massey University. I have previously worked in the Rural Servicing industry in Fertiliser Sales and in more recent years with ANZ Bank in the Agri team. Locally I am currently the convenor of the Mataura Junior Rugby Club. Our board's focus is on great outcomes for all our students and I enjoy seeing the progress being made by our students. I meet weekly with Mrs Dennison with updates on what is occurring in the school to ensure I am always informed, during these meetings we also continue our work to ensure we are on target to achieving our schools goals. If you would like to contact me please either email leanneh@mataura.school.nz or call me on 0272038867.

Katherine Chamberlain - Vice Presiding Member

My connection to Mataura School began in 2013 when I started work here as a school social worker and it didn't take long to feel at home.  I love seeing five year olds that I met back then over lunchtime colouring, now as the big kids and leaders in our school.  I've been a Mataura School parent since 2019 when our daughter started in Ruma Kiwi.  I'm hoping to contribute my skills and experience by serving on the Board and supporting the great mahi that happens here.  Our family moved into Mataura last year and are loving living locally.  My hope is that everyone here can feel proud to call Mataura home and when our kids look back in years to come, they will see how their time at Mataura School helped lay the groundwork for future success in life.  


Hayley Cowan

Hi, I became a member of the Mataura School Board as a parent representative at the end of 2023.  I am an accountant in Gore at Hammond Davidson.  I live in Waimumum on a dairy farm with my partner Jodie, we have three children:  Mila, Olive and Ronnie.  Mila started at Mataura School in July 2023 in Room Kiwi.  I enjoy the challengers of balancing work and motherhood and now look forward to helping on the school board.

Juliette Lyon

Kia ora, I became a member of the Mataura school board of trustees at the beginning of 2024. I am deputy principal at Whare-rā / Fernworth  school in Invercargill. 

I am originally from Alexandra but have been living in Mataura for 5 years now with my partner Roman and his three children Reko, Marnie and Koda who all attend Mataura school.   I am passionate about education and look forward to working alongside this team. 

Shona Willis - Staff Trustee

My name is Shona Willis and I teach in Room Kiwi. This is my tenth year teaching at Mataura School, and the ninth year that I am on the Board as the staff trustee. I am responsible for the Health and Safety portfolio, as well as sharing responsibility for Property, and I report to the Board on these areas at every meeting.

I was born and raised in Singapore. I left in 2003 to go to university in Scotland, where I completed undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Economics. I also have a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification, and have taught English in Cambodia. I moved to New Zealand in 2011 with my husband Chris, who is from Dunedin, and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in primary teaching. I have lived in Gore since 2012, and enjoy reading and hiking.

If you would like to contact me, then you can either email me at shona@mataura.school.nz, or make an appointment to see me at the school office.

Susan Dennison – Principal

Kia Ora, I began here as principal in 2006. I am married to John, who works at the Eastern Southland Art Gallery. Our 3 children are Albert, Tom, and Louise. Albert is an apprentice electrician, Tom is a newly qualified builder, and Louise works on the “Reimagining Mataura River” project. 

I studied at Otago University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Education, and a Diploma of Teaching. I come from a teaching family as my Mum was a teacher and one of my sisters is. My teaching career started in Greymouth, then Christchurch, and then at Longford Intermediate and St Mary’s in Gore.

My goals for our school are to find ways for all students to come to school and enjoy their learning. My job is to help the teachers and support staff realise this aspiration for every learner. Our learners need to love their lives here and develop resiliency so that they can cope with life. They need lots of experiences and opportunities to broaden their understanding of the world.