Our Team


Joanna Smith

Managing Director, Senior Consultant, Workplace Learning

Joanna is passionate about improving workplace learning. She worked for a number of years as a senior manager in the IT industry, responsible for People and Capability. She totally gets what it's like when the business comes and says "We need training!" The first step is always to focus on the business goals, and determine what the most effective course of action should be. Joanna's early career was spent in tertiary language teaching and teacher training, so she has a soft spot for the language teaching industry. She started  Pukeko Learning Solutions in 2016 and alongside designing effective learning solutions for other organisations, she and the team also work on their internal brand, Language Fuel. Joanna is currently president of New Zealand Association for Training and Development.


Nigel Smith

Senior Consultant, Education sector

Nigel has an extensive background in secondary and tertiary education. He has taught within a variety of curricula (IB, UK, and NZ), been a teacher trainer, and has held leadership roles in a wide variety of organisations (schools, not-for-profit PTE, universities, and commercial education providers). This experience gives him both a deep and broad understanding of the challenges and opportunities in education. He has a particular interest in how to optimise the relational dynamic, which is so critical for effective learning, alongside the implementation of digital solutions. He uses a collaborative approach to project management in order to help educational institutions to achieve their goals.


Willeke Viellevoye

Finance Manager

Willeke comes to Pukeko Learning Solutions from a background of both finance and linguistics. After working for some time in a support role for a large academic institution, Willeke has decided to turn her hand towards a role which more closely aligns with her passion for languages. Willeke studied psycholinguistics, and second language acquisition, and is excited to support both the Pukeko brand and Language Fuel brand by helping us keep our finances in order, and lending a hand with whatever else needs doing.

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Cain Prentice

Learning Design Lead

Cain has a degree in Commerce & Administration and other qualifications in English Language teaching and Adult Education. He has broad work experience in finance, law, education, not-for-profit and Government. He’s lived in England and more recently China, where he spent time teaching English and manging and training teams of teachers. As an experienced learning designer, Cain loves bringing his passions of creativity, storytelling and video production to projects. He also believes that life is too short for anyone to have to spend doing boring training!

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Melanie Woolford

Instructional Designer

Melanie has a Masters Degree in Linguistics, a professional background in language teaching and educational publishing, and a keen interest in storytelling. She also has plenty of experience as a language learner. Aside from her native English, she is fluent in German, and has so far learnt six other languages to varying levels of fluency.

Melanie describes herself as an insatiably curious lifelong learner. She is a firm believer that there is no such thing as a boring subject. Anything has the potential to be fascinating if it is communicated in an interesting and relevant way – but by the same token, even the most inherently fascinating of subjects can be rendered tedious by a tiresome delivery.

Melanie’s role is to bring any course of learning to life through effective learning design.

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Maren Behrend

ELT specialist and Learning Designer

Maren has a wide-ranging background in the field of education, in areas of language learning, literacy, and teacher training.  She earned an M.A. in Language Teaching and became a Cambridge CELTA Trainer. She has taught a variety of programs, ages, and levels, from primary school students to university lecturers, and worked internationally in Europe, Asia, the United States, and New Zealand.  Her writing includes the development of short courses, online materials, assessments, study guides and teacher manuals.  A qualified facilitator for the Global Competence Certificate, Maren believes in the importance of inclusivity and catering for diversity. Whatever the medium or subject matter, her aim is developing lessons that are engaging, motivational and relevant to the learners. 


Sophie Devereaux

Lead Graphic Designer

Sophie has a degree in Information Design, as well as great natural talent and highly developed digital skills. She uses a wide range of software applications to achieve the design which has been set for a project. She has designed and produced websites, brochures, animated and real videos, eLearning modules, custom graphics and documents. She leads our team of Graphic Designers, to ensure our internal work and our client work is of the highest quality.


Chris Silva

Graphic Designer

Chris has recently completed her Masters Degree in Creative practice. Her talent in design and her advanced digital skills are evident in work she’s done creating brand collateral and marketing materials. Her work at Pukeko Learning Solutions/Language Fuel now also includes development of elearning modules and other course materials. 

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Giulia Romanó

Graphic Designer

Giulia Romanó is a graduate of Communication Arts and Design for Sustainability. She specialises in Graphic Design and Illustration. Giulia is Brazilian-born, and has citizenship in Aotearoa / New Zealand, Brazil and Luxembourg. She is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Her prior work in graphic design contributed to the Covid response support in Brazil, and she now enjoys applying her talents to projects under both the Pukeko Learning Solutions and Language Fuel brands.


Eduardo Sampaio

Marketing & Relationship Manager

In the last eleven years, Eduardo has worked in the creative industry, leading marketing activities, communication strategies and managing client relationships. He has collaborated with advertising agencies, designers, content producers, digital marketers, music studios, PR agencies and photographers.

In the first part of his career, he led sales and marketing teams at multinational companies, worked as a business and marketing consultant and as a marketing and management tertiary teacher. His cultural background is diverse, having lived in the USA, Spain and Brazil.

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Briony West

Communications Coordinator

Briony has recently graduated from her undergraduate degree and is currently working towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Communications. She has previous work experience in running social media accounts, marking campaigns and editing newsletters. Briony is working mostly with the Language Fuel brand as Communications Coordinator.



Learning & Development Contractors

In order best meet the specific needs of your project, we maintain a network of specialists. We can draw on them as required. Sometimes we need to add specific skills to a project, such as videography, or sometimes we simply need some more hands on deck to help us meet a deadline. We know how important those deadlines are, and we commit to you to do whatever it takes to meet them!

Is this you? If you would like to be put on our database of contractors we can call on, get in touch, and let us know what you're capable of!