Our Team

The STaR team is passionate about its work. We are proud to declare that all STaR team members who work with children and educators have postgraduate qualifications in special education.

Margaret Meaker | General Manager

I believe in acceptance of difference, that it is the most fundamental thing we can teach our children through education and demonstration. I love community because it enables the gathering of people who share a need, an interest, a vision – it builds relationships that empower you. I love my work. I am motivated by my talented colleagues and feel privileged to work with families who continually demonstrate the true meaning of unconditional love. Children with disabilities have taught me my greatest life lessons and will continue to do so. I am so fortunate to lead an organisation that is making a difference to the lives of many.

Advanced Certificate in Social Welfare, TAFE NSW

Dawn Chadwick | Manager, Professional Learning

All children have the right to be included, to participate and be accepted in their community. Not all children have the necessary skills, however, and will need support. This task can be challenging for the educators and families supporting the children, and they may need additional education and guidance. My aim is to pass on the evidence-based knowledge and practical skills I have gained during my 25 years of working and researching in the area of young children with additional needs, to ensure that these children are given every opportunity to develop and grow to the best of their ability.

Diploma of Education (Primary), Westmead Teachers College;
Masters (Honours) in Special Education, Macquarie University

Kerry Hodge | Manager, Research and Development

From my earliest years of teaching there were young children whose development was outside age expectations in some way, either slower or faster. These children fascinated me and also challenged my usual teaching practice, in a good way. Over the years I have learned to turn to the research evidence to guide my work and have contributed to the evidence base by conducting research of my own and in collaboration with others. I really enjoy assisting early childhood educators and parents to learn more about best practice and to use it with children with special learning needs in their own contexts. I especially enjoy sharing what I have learned about giftedness in young children.

Bachelor of Education (Pre-primary), University of Sydney;
PhD (Special Education), Macquarie University

Megan Cooper | Manager, Childcare Placement and Support Program

My work in Egypt co-ordinating an orphanage and preschool program led me to decide to gain qualifications in teaching back in Australia. I completed my Early Intervention Certificate, followed by a Master of Special Education degree while working with children in a special education setting. I have always enjoyed mentoring new educators and students, including tutoring university students. My work with STaR is varied: I assist families with children with additional needs to find placement in early education, participate in research, mentor and train educators and conduct professional learning workshops. There is never a dull moment, and I still get a thrill out of children reaching their individual objectives and the delight of their teachers and families when they do.

Bachelor of Science, Macquarie University;
Bachelor of Teaching-Primary, University of New England;
Postgraduate Certificate in Early Intervention, Macquarie University;
Master of Special Education, Macquarie University

Elise de Jong | Special Educator

That people with disabilities are seen as valued and contributing members of our community has always been a core belief of mine. This has led me to focus on early intervention within an education framework in my studies and career. As a STaR special educator I can contribute toward this vision – supporting children with disabilities in inclusive childcare environments, welcomed by their peers, seen as just one of the gang.

Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Education, Macquarie University;
Master of Management in Community Management, UTS;
Master of Special Education, Macquarie University

Rosie Vella | Early Intervention Support Teacher

My passion for working with children with additional needs came to me in the form of a 2-year-old boy whose family came to the centre’s door after being rejected from many other childcare centres. After working with this little boy and his family I found my direction for special education. I believe all children have the right to laugh, learn and dream and to be given the best start in life. Through STaR I aim to inspire educators in childcare centres to believe this too, and I support, train and guide them to provide individualised programs for the children with additional needs. Together we use the children’s interests and strengths to help the children to be included and to prepare for the life ahead.

Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood), UWS Nepean;
Postgraduate Certificate in Special Education, Macquarie University

Rai Chen | Administration Assistant

After three years of working in the Media and Marketing industry I began my journey with STaR as an administration assistant. What drew me to STaR was its passion and integrity. Working at STaR has been tremendously rewarding. I am inspired every day by my colleagues, by our children and their parents and by the early childhood educators who are passionate about inclusion. I enjoy using my skills and expertise supporting the STaR team across many areas of operation – business administration, digital marketing, IT and fundraising. Two and a half years on, STaR continues to inspire me with its vision and resilience, and I look forward to a thriving future with STaR.

Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications), University of New South Wales

Charlene Phielix | Financial Assistant

I worked in the administration field for many years with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. When it was time to move on I decided to try a career change and trained in accounts. I enjoy working with numbers, and accounts gave me the flexibility to work while bringing up my children. At STaR I enjoy the variety of work, including managing the government funded consortium services for children with disabilities.

Certificate III and IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping, Baulkham Hills TAFE;
Registered BAS Agent

Sue Kallas | Release Educator

I was a teacher at Meadowbank Multipurpose Learning Centre when STaR came along in 2001, wanting to enrol some special children. This started my interest in helping children with disabilities and seeing how they benefit from inclusion in childcare centre programs. When I decided to retire from full time work, STaR snaffled me up to become one of their release workers. So now I visit five centres each week, giving educators time to do the work involved with supporting STaR children in their groups. In this way I can share the enthusiasm of those educators who find delight in seeing the progress of our little STaRs.

Teacher’s Certificate, Newcastle Teachers College