Our Staff

Honesty, authenticity and inner awareness- we’re building a new way of learning.

Our faculty are as diverse as our community but have one thing in common; we all believe that wisdom coupled with compassion in education is a fundamental foundation for inspiring learning. Our goal is to help students connect with their authentic, unique selves and grow into informed, aware and compassionate citizens.

Meet our People

Andrea Furness – Interim Principal
Tanya WigginsLearning Manager
Genevieve Blades Bush School Coordinator
Rosie Berenyi-Mansell– Office Manager
Angelique Downing– Prep/1
Racheal Cooper -Grade 2,3
Tina Halvy – Grade, 2, 3
Mandy De Lacy – Grade 4,5,6
Venerable Lekdron – School Chaplain
Patsy Taylor – Specialist Classes, Visual Arts
Jo Tsakoumagos – Performing Arts

Check out our careers

Think you’d like to work with the Dharma School?

Andrea Furness

“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Andrea Furness

INTERIM SCHOOL PRINCIPAL

Formal Qualifications:
Bachelor of Health Science – HONS, Victoria University.

I was the co-founder of the school under the guidance of Tibetan Buddhist monk Geshe Konchok Tsering. I was the first principal from 2009-12 and worked closely with our founding vision, the original Board and school community to establish the school as the first of its kind in Australia. It is such an important undertaking to establish a contemporary education system that is founded upon the compassion and wisdom philosophical teachings of the Buddha and requires many interdependent skills, support and advice across many levels.

Previous engagement with the school:
I have worked across many areas within the school and Board since the idea for a buddhist philosophical primary school was introduced in 2005. My time has included a break for 2 years when I moved away from Daylesford which gave me an awareness of how unique and important the vision of the school is and how it enriches the lives of all who work to both establish and experience the vision and values of the school.

Buddha Dharma Experience:
I have been a student of Mahayana Buddhism since the early 80’s and began undertaking studies and retreats in my early 20’s. I think that being a parent has been a great motivator for me in holding with the Buddha’s teachings and integrating them into the way of family living.

Relevant skills:
Established the first registration of the school in Victoria. Managed the school operations and development of policies and procedures as the first Principal. 20 years of service and support to community groups within the Daylesford community. Teaching in the tertiary and private sector in performing arts practice. Supervising student health science clinical placements in the tertiary sector.

Current profession:
I work in the allied health sector as a Chinese medicine practitioner with specialist areas of interest. I have a practice in Daylesford and Ballarat.

What do you hope to achieve while serving as an Interim Principal?
I hope to see the school establish itself as an education leader in developing the inner qualities of students that enhances the expected physical, social and academic elements of the Australian curriculum. Particularly of interest to me is how we as a school support the development of compassion, the wisdom view, kindness and ethical responsibility as intrinsic in our students.

“Good conduct is the way in which life becomes more meaningful, more constructive and more
peaceful. For this, much depends on our own behaviour and our mental attitude.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Tanya Wiggin

Learning Manager

What inspired you to join the Dharma School? 

I had a keen interest in teaching approaches that supported the development of social-emotional learning in a more considered way since I began teaching in 1994. I was also interested in how we can support agency in young children to support them in being active and connected members of their local community. In 2003 I attended a seminar on developing optimism in young children which was based on the work by Martin Seligman and from then on I was hooked!  How could I cultivate hearts and minds through my teaching that supported the development of resilience, happiness, optimism, agency and gratitude in the students I was privileged to teach?  I heard about the Dharma School when I first moved to Ballarat in 2010 and had looked at the website thinking how wonderful and innovative it was to see a primary school with an educational approach that sought to cultivate wisdom and compassion. By chance I saw a job for a Prep-Grade 2 teacher at the Dharma School advertised in the local paper in May 2010 and an energising and inspiring journey began!

Where did you complete your formal education?

Bachelor of Science Human Movement Science –  RMIT Bundoora
Graduate Diploma of Education (Primary) -La Trobe Uni Bundoora
Graduate Diploma of TESOL – LaTrobe Uni Bundoora
Master of Education (Research) – Federation University Mt Helen (High Distinction)
Minor Thesis: How do Pre-service teachers develop knowledge about sustainability and environmental education in a regional university education course?

What did you enjoy most about your own experiences as a student?

As a student I loved learning about everything! Understanding how things worked, working with others and most of all being able to work on real projects that were meaningful. I was lucky enough to attend a small rural school with 25 students where my teachers realised that they could teach all of the curriculum through meaningful projects. We organised Koala counts, built our own play equipment, organised fundraisers, organised our own school concerts and had the chance to visit experts in our local area for almost any investigation we were doing!

How long have you worked in education and what have your roles been?

I started teaching in 1994 where I was lucky enough to pick up a teaching role as a Prep – Grade 2, Phys Ed, Dance and Gymnastics teacher in a large independent school. After a few years of teaching PE I moved schools in 2000 and decided to head into the classroom where I taught across all grades and developed a particular love of teaching maths, science and humanities using inquiry based learning approaches. My roles have varied across the years where I have coordinated science, inquiry learning and inclusive education programs.  I have implemented sustainability education programs and student led learning initiatives, which involved creating and running professional development for other teachers in the Northern Metropolitan region where I was working.

When I moved to Ballarat at the start of 2010 I began working at Federation University in the School of Education, mentoring pre-service teachers during their school placements and teaching a number of courses including Sustainability Education, Literacy, Wellbeing & Engagement, Social Enterprise Education and Inclusive Education.  I also began teaching at the Dharma School in 2010 teaching Prep – Grade 2 three days a week. I am still lucky enough to work at both the Dharma School as the Learning Manager and at Federation University and have just finished my Masters in Sustainability Education.

What are your interests when you are not changing the world through education?

My interests are very varied! My love of nature influences much of my recreational time, where you will likely find me: on my mountain bike, hiking, snowboarding, walking my dogs, making short movies, reading, photographing wildflowers (sometimes whilst mountain biking much to the amusement of my family!), at yoga, gardening or revegetating Durham Lead with my local Landcare group. I also love playing Old Time and Bluegrass music with a couple of local bands. Nothing sounds sweeter than the twang of a banjo!

Dr Genevieve Blades

“It is important to know the exact meaning of compassion. The Buddhist interpretation is that
genuine compassion is based on a clear acceptance or recognition that others, like oneself,
want happiness and the right to overcome suffering. On that basis, one develops some kind of
concern about the welfare of others, irrespective of their attitude to oneself. That is
compassion.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Dr Genevieve Blades

Bush School Manager

Formal Qualifications

  • PhD Doctor of Philosophy, School of Education La Trobe University; 
  • Master of Arts (Social Ecology) University of Western Sydney; 
  • Undergraduate degree in Human Movement Studies (Education, Honours) University of Queensland

Motivation for joining the Dharma School

My passion as an educator and long term connection with the school are reasons that I joined the DESC and support the Board. I am now working part time and have the time and space to focus on supporting the school in developing its curriculum and pedagogy.

Previous engagement

I was a Board member and Chair of the Board from the school’s beginning in 2008 to 2016.

Relevant experiences

Dharma practice and study; Educator (School aged students and tertiary students) over a 30 year period; My specialty area is environmental outdoor education in which I have taught in schools and tertiary settings; Organised, developed and implemented a range of curriculum in schools and University; written curriculum documents;  I have trained as a facilitator for environmental sustainability programmes;  developed and implemented professional development for teachers in schools; researcher (having recently completed an award winning PhD).

Relevant skills

Experienced in delivering quality teaching and learning (pedagogy); environmental and outdoor skills; knowledge of school-based curriculum in Victoria.

Current profession

I am currently working as an independent researcher and educator. I am developing the Bush School program with the teaching staff at the Daylesford Dharma School.

 

 

“… the greater the force of your altruistic attitude towards sentient beings, the more courageous
you become. The greater your courage, the less you feel prone to discouragement and loss of
hope. Therefore, compassion is also a source of inner strength.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Rosie Berenyi-Mansell

School Administration

What inspired you to join the Dharma School? 

I believe education’s primary role is not to prepare children just for the workforce, in a future we can’t even imagine, but to also support their inner qualities to be responsible and compassionate people of their generation. For me the Dharma School offered an approach that is both about the individual and with compassion at its heart, and I wanted to support this alternative being available to students.

Where did you complete your formal education?

I was homeschooled throughout my primary and secondary education, and this gave me experience of an education alternative and the pathways your learning can take beyond a mainstream structure. This grew in me a strong belief that an individual’s education experience is just that individual, we all have our own interests, attributes and and strengths. After finishing my high school education I was able to study a Cert III in Business Administration while in my role with The Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre. I have gained over 9 years experience in the administration field throughout my career.

What did you enjoy most about your own experiences as a student? 

Due to the small class size my teachers were able to tailor the content to my interests, which engaged my passion for learning. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with multi age groups, and the flexibility of the classroom location. My teachers adopted a relaxed approach to a set structure, which enabled me to capture and fully explore a thread of interest or creativity, for as long as it naturally ran. This meant my creativity did not feel scheduled or time controlled.

How long have you worked in education and what have your roles been?

In my early career after a number of different industries administration I was lucky to begin a role working at the Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre, this enabled me to support a team of tertiary educators, and VCAL teachers. These experiences strengthened my belief in alternative education approaches and that the mainstream simply doesn’t work for everyone. I was excited to join the Daylesford Dharma School in 2014 and become part of the team.

What are your interests when you are not changing the world through education?

I am a crafty person who enjoys making many things myself. I find it immensely rewarding making things myself, from homemade preserves from my garden to jewellery making and other crafts. I also greatly enjoy kayaking during the summer holidays, I find the quiet of my kayak enables me to observe so much nature.

“Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.

Maya Angelou

Angelique Downing

Preps & Grade 1

What inspired you to join the Dharma School?

It was a moment of serendipity that brought me to the Dharma school. I had just fallen in love with a little cottage up here after a weekend away and decided that if I was actually seriously going to give up my life in Melbourne and move to Daylesford, I would need to find a teaching job here. I looked online for schools and saw the phone number for the Dharma school, knowing nothing about it or that it so beautifully aligned with my own beliefs around spirituality.  Rosie answered the phone and when I explained my crazy idea, she informed me that they had actually just advertised for a full time position for next year. The rest, as they say, is history. Such a  perfect example of the stars aligning just at the right time.

Where did you complete your formal education?

I began my education at St Bede’s in North Balwyn but moved to the Gold Coast and completed Year 1 -12 at Marymount College. I did my teaching degree at Latrobe University in Bundoora.

What did you enjoy most about your own experiences as a student?

I always really enjoyed learning ways to creatively teach and to inspire children. I loved the idea of igniting the spark in every child to explore their world and find the things they love to learn through.

How long have you worked in education and what have your roles been?

I have worked in education for 10 years and have always chosen to teach in the Junior classes.
The littlies are so adorable and they light up my days.

What are your interests when you are not changing the world through education? 

I have a passion for travel and photography, writing and I also studied interior design prior to teaching and love it. Weekends you will find me searching for treasures at markets, salsa dancing and spending long days at the beach with my favourite books and a notepad.

“Mindfulness… is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to
wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

Rachael Cooper

Grade 2,3

What inspired you to join the Dharma School?

When I heard about the Dharma School I felt an affinity with it straight away. I love the philosophy, the Dharma community and the school’s willingness to embrace creative thinking. It is wonderful to be part of a school that encourages mindfulness, wisdom, and kindness.

Where did you complete your formal education?

My most recent studies have been at Latrobe University, Bendigo where I completed a Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood Education and Primary Teaching.

What did you enjoy most about your own experiences as a student?

I have always appreciated creative learning opportunities, inclusivity and kindness. My first teacher made me feel safe and accepted and I model my teaching on her- thank you Mrs King! When I was at primary school I loved the excursions and experiences my school offered.

How long have you worked in education and what have your roles been?

I worked for many years coordinating educational and social programs involving children and adults with a disability, then studied to become a teacher while working as an educator and inclusion aide. I have been teaching early childhood family music classes for about 7 years, and now work in roles as a kindergarten teacher as well as teaching the Grade 2, 3 class at the Dharma School.

What are your interests when you are not changing the world through education?

I love spending time with my family, singing, making and listening to music, nurturing my garden, travelling, reading, walking in the bush and spreading smiles…

“You know kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”.
 ‘Every kid needs a champion’ Video

Rita Pierson

Tina Halvy

Grade 2,3

What inspired you to join the Dharma School?

After many years of working in the corporate world in Melbourne, I moved to Creswick with my partner and became a mother which was the most amazing thing and that I truly loved. It was losing my father suddenly in 2010 that made me reflect on what I would really like to do in the future. The importance of children as our future and that in some way I could be part of their journey inspired me to investigate how I could do this. I was inspired to become a mature aged student and enrolled in a P-6 teaching degree at Federation University in 2010. I was fortunate to have Tanya Wiggins as not only one of my lecturers but also as a mentor. I’m thankful that it was through her I was introduced to the Dharma school. Whilst I was a student, I volunteered at the Dharma School and loved the ethics of the school and their motto ‘Live to be kind. Learn to be wise’. Once I graduated, I was fortunate to do relief teaching at this wonderful school and I am truly happy that I am still part of the teaching staff in this incredible community.

Where did you complete your formal education?

I studied at Federation University Ballarat from 2010 – 2014. I must admit at times it was difficult being a mature aged student with lots of other responsibilities but I absolutely loved being there. I found the subjects I was studying were not only beneficial as a future educator but also as a mother. My teaching rounds were at a diverse range of schools and I am very thankful to all the students, teachers and Principals who have not only inspired but encouraged me to be the teacher I am today.

What did you enjoy most about your own experiences as a student?

I thought a teacher who inspired and encouraged you was absolutely amazing but made things fun as well as being the best! I always flourished in literacy activities but thought I was ‘bad’ at Maths. The teacher who made me realise I wasn’t ‘bad’ at Maths and that I just needed another way of explaining it to me was incredible! I know firsthand that a teacher that really cares about you can definitely make a difference to your education.

How long have you worked in education and what have your roles been?

I am now in my fourth year of teaching at the Daylesford Dharma School. During this time:
In 2017 I was co-teaching a grade 1/2 classroom
In 2018 I was co-teaching a grade 2/3/4 classroom
In 2019 I was co-teaching a grade 1/2/3 classroom
In 2020 I was co-teaching a grade 1/2/3 classroom

I also have been doing relief teaching at a state school in Ballarat for the last five years and have built strong relationships with the staff and students there.

What are your interests when you are not changing the world through education?

As a family we love going up to the family farm and whilst there we enjoy exploring nearby Mt Cole and other bush areas. I also enjoy taking our fifteen-year-old dog Blue for now, slow walks around the nearby bush in Creswick and having opportunities to travel around Australia and overseas. I love supporting my son in his numerous sporting activities and I enjoy volunteering whenever I can to support these sports. I am also passionate about protecting our environment and also protecting children and animal rights.

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence”
– Dr Carol S Dweck

Rita Pierson

Mandy De Lacy

Grade 4,5,6

What inspired you to join the Dharma School?

I was lucky enough to join the Dharma team as a relief teacher early in 2021 and when an opening popped up later that year to take over in a full time role, I was very excited. After learning more about the Buddhist practices from the retreats, I was very happy that I was asked to stay on and continue teaching the Noble Guides.

Where did you complete your formal education?

I completed my Bachelor of Applied Science at RMIT, specialising in Cartography. Once completed I spent 20 years in the mapping industry, most of that time at Melway, driving around the streets of Greater Melbourne.

I then changed careers and completed my Graduate Diploma in Teaching at Victoria University in Deer Park. I loved being back at Uni, learning how to learn again.

What did you enjoy most about your own experiences as a student?

As a young student I really enjoyed being challenged. Back in the day when there weren’t computers, everything was hand written and calculated by hand. I loved learning different ways to work out the answers and I spent many an hour in my school and local libraries.

How long have you worked in education and what have your roles been?

This is my 9th year of teaching. Initially I spent almost 3 years at Cairnlea Park Primary School teaching grade 4, near Deer Park.

I then decided to teach at many schools as a Casual Relief Teacher and while I was doing that John Marsden from Candlebark asked me to teach Coding to many of their students as part of their Clubs program. That turned into a more substantial role there, filling in for teachers on long service leave and sabbaticals.

I have worked for agencies and directly with schools, including whole terms at various independent schools as an upper primary school teacher.

During Covid I was able to become an online tutor for an emerging tech company and really enjoyed teaching students across the country. I have also managed coding camps during the school holidays for another start-up company.

What are your interests when you are not changing the world through education?

I love to travel, which is one of the reasons why I chose to work casually. Once Covid came along, that brought me back to travelling within our wonderful state of Victoria, discovering different regions when regional Victoria was able to move about freely.

 

“The purpose of life is to be happy”.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Patsy Taylor

Specialist Educator, Visual Arts

1. What inspired you to join the Dharma School? 

As my approach to life and to teaching is to be mindful and caring, I feel aligned with the Buddhist precepts that the Daylesford Dharma School upholds. Having an appreciation for the development of wisdom and compassion, I respect the school’s focus on kindness and universal responsibility.

I really appreciate starting the school day with a group meditation session.

2. Where did you complete your formal education?

I completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts/ Bachelor of Education from Federation University in Ballarat.

3. What did you enjoy most about your own experiences as a student?

Art has been my passion since High School. I was inspired by the creative challenges that I was given. Enthusiastic about participating in all the arts subjects, I took them all on with gusto from Drama and Photography to Design and Visual Arts.

4. How long have you worked in education and what have your roles been?

Loving the role of Visual Arts teacher at the Dharma School, I have come lately to this profession, through the evolving trajectory of my life.  Last year, I was an Art Teacher at Black Hill Primary School. I’ve also been a Casual Relief Teacher for the last couple of years.

5. What are your interests when you are not changing the world through education?

Recently I have been obsessed with regenerating a section of once weed infested road reserve that adjoins my property.

I create wild abstract paintings that respond to the inspiring natural landscapes that surround my home in Hepburn Springs.

“The most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Here we do not mean political freedom, but
freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy, and delusion… As long as these
poisons are still in our heart, happiness cannot be possible.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh, Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

Jo Tsakoumagos

Performing Arts

1. What inspired you to join the Dharma School? 

I have been inspired to teach at Dharma for some time. I was drawn to the school in 2012, when my daughter Artemis began attending the playgroup sessions when she was only just beginning to crawl. I was instantly warmed by the school’s ethos on compassion and kindness.  The Dharma school alignment with my own whole-child-focused approach to education.

2. Where did you complete your formal education?

As a student myself, I enjoyed self-expression and exploring imagination through the arts. I was inspired by workshops using play to explore creative impulses for developing material. My most inspired teachers taught me how to craft word to effect. This fuelled a passion for the powerful use of language and word.

3. What did you enjoy most about your own experiences as a student?

In the early 90s I completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Performance Studies and Literature and my Dip Ed in Drama and English at The Victorian University. I also studied teacher training at the Warranwood Waldorf Steiner School. Together, these courses further informed my passion for performance making and empowering students through the creative process.

4. How long have you worked in education and what have your roles been?

I have been teaching Drama, Dance, Theatre Studies at Castlemaine Secondary College, since 1995, at all year levels. Including the school’s Year 9 & 10 Steiner Education Stream. In 2004, I founded the Inside Out Dance Theatre School in Daylesford, providing a range of classes and concerts for students of all ages.

5. What are your interests when you are not changing the world through education?

Through the creative process, students explore the humanity within themselves, their classmates, and the world. In Performing arts, students work in a team orientated approach and develop tolerance and empathy. In performance work, we improve our ability to understand ourselves, people and life situations.

Venerable Lekdron

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor, Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

Venerable Lekdron

School Chaplain

What inspired you to join the Dharma School? 

 

Where did you complete your formal education?

 

What did you enjoy most about your own experiences as a student? 

 

How long have you worked in education and what have your roles been?

 

What are your interests when you are not changing the world through education?