Staff Profiles

AKELC educators and staff are highly qualified and have a wealth of knowledge and skills relevant to early childhood education.

All nursery and preschool teachers receive a minimum of 30 hours of professional development, annually. Specific areas of training include child protection & safeguarding, bilingual education, High Scope curriculum, first aid, special education needs and disabilities (SEND), language and literacy development, and much more.

Administrative Staff

Head of Nursery and Preschool

AKES ECD Professional Development Coordinator

HR and Operations Manager

Support Staff/Cleaner

FS 1 (3-4 Year Old) Class / Lavender

Lead Teacher

Arabic Teacher

Assistant Teacher

2-3 Year Old Class / Marigold Teaching Team

Arabic Teacher

Assistant Teacher

English Teacher

Classroom Assistant

1-2 Year Old Class / Sunflower Teaching Team

Lead Teacher

Classroom Assistant

Classroom Assistant

Lead Arabic Teacher

Administrative Staff

Ms. Kelli Allen

School head of Nursery and Preschool

My name is Kelli Allen and I am the Head of Nursery and Preschool at the Aga Khan Early Learning Centre. I am from the USA and my children and grandchildren all still reside there. My role at the Centre is to support parents, children and staff in a friendly and safe environment. I will be supervising the day-to-day activities, promoting staff development, ensuring that the curriculum and resources are of the highest quality and will be liaising with parents and outside organizations.

I am beginning my 8th year in Dubai and I really enjoy living here. While in Dubai I have gained additional experience in my roles as a KG1 Teacher, Teacher Trainer, Nursery Manager and Early Childhood consultant. Prior to living in Dubai I have worked as either a teacher or Nursery manager in the USA, Canada, Korea and New Zealand. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and over 33 years experience with the Early Years.

I believe in promoting independence in young children, allowing them to learn through play and feel that a Nursery/Preschool environment will best prepare them for later life. I believe strongly that AKELC is a place where each child can learn, play, explore and grow as an individual to be and do the best that they can. I am happy to be working in such a high quality Nursery and love the international staff and families. I look forward to meeting with you soon and to sharing in the learning journey with our children and families.

Ms. Marva Headley

AKES ECD Professional Development Coordinator

My name is Marva and I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. My role at the AKELC is to support the professional development of teachers so that teachers and children can engage in mutually fulfilling learning experiences. I will be working with staff at the AKELC and Pre-primary staff across the AKES network to enrich the ECD outcomes for children through coaching, workshops and training.

I have been working in the field of ECD for the past 14 years and have an Honours Diploma in Early Childhood Education, a Bachelors Degree in Sociology and a Masters in Education. My entire career has been nurtured from working with diverse cultures and I am indebted to all the families and professionals I have worked with that have contributed to my professional development in the field.

I am a passionate educator and my passion involves working with children, parents and educators to enrich programs and child outcomes. I believe the role of the teacher is the beginning of success in early learning environments and that children deserve our best every day! Literacy is my specialty and I look forward to contributing to the work of the AKELC to strengthen the capacity of the AKES to provide quality programs to children.

Ms. Irnesa Hodzic

HR and Operations Manager

My name is Irnesa (or Irny for short) and I am the HR and Operations Manager for AKELC since October 2015. I have completed by Bachelor's in 2012 and my M.B.A. in 2018.

My role is divided between supporting AKELC staff and Centre, and supporting AKELC parents and children. Within the HR role, I support staff with all their human resources needs. While within the Operations role, I assist with marketing needs for the Centre, support the Centre and AKES with any administrative requirements, and assist parents and their children at the front desk to provide a strong and caring support base.

My family's philosophy of education as a strong foundation for success has been instilled in me from a very young age. Hence, though I have worked in many industries, I am always pulled back toward education which I have had a great love and respect for. Therefore, it is a great privilege and honour for me to work with AKELC staff and parents.

Please come on by and say hello! I am happy to help and I hope that I may enrich your lives as much as you have enriched mine!

Ms. Preethy Dominic

School Nurse

Hello, I am Preethy and I work as a School Healthcare Nurse at AKELC. I graduated from Bangalore University, in India and hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I have professional experience of 15 years in India and Dubai. I have now worked for 9 years as a School Nurse in Dubai and really enjoy the city. As the School nurse, I am committed to ensuring that the environment and classrooms are safe for our children to learn and play. I'm also responsible for the overall health and wellbeing of our children; this is a top priority at AKELC; from nutrition to general health screening and monitoring personal care skills that infants and toddlers learn everyday, my role extends beyond the classroom and ensures that children have the right skills to practice appropriate hygiene and self-care.

I'm so happy to be a part of the team at AKELC and look forward happy and healthy days ahead.

Ms. Jasmin Macaltao

Supporting Staff

I am Jasmin C. Macaltao from the Philippines. I am happily married to Mr. Joel Macaltao and blessed with one daughter. I finished college with a medical secretary qualification and started a family business in the Philippines. I came to Dubai with my husband in hope of finding a brighter future. We have now been living and working in Dubai since 2012. I am currently working to help to care for the spaces around the AKELC, children and staff at the AKELC. I'm happy to part of the team at AKELC, where everyone is family!

FS 1 (3-4 Year Old) Class
Lavender Teaching Team

Ms. Shafaq Mirza

Lead Teacher

My name is Shafaq Mirza. I started working at AKELC in September 2016 and I'm excited to be part of the team. I was born and raised here in Dubai, U.A.E. I received my Bachelors in Child Development from Michigan State University and recently attended Teachers College, Columbia University for a Masters in Early Childhood Education. Prior to working at AKELC, I have worked with children from birth-6 years of age in both play-based and school settings in Dubai and the U.S. Early childhood education has been a passion of mine and I consider myself to be a child advocate.

I believe these early years are a critical period for growth and development. Children need an optimal learning environment with supportive adults who value their individuality. It is imperative to let children formulate their own thoughts and grow in a nurturing environment. My favourite part of working with children is having conversations with them and the daily laughs that we share. I have a keen interest in children's literature and hope to introduce many authors and books in my classroom this year. I enjoy my time working in classrooms as no day is the same. I look forward to getting to know these little people with ‘big' personalities and hope to share a few laughs together as we all learn from each other.

Ms. Rima Yaseen

Arabic Teacher

Hi, I am Ms. Rima. I am from Palestine. I graduated from Damascus University with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and I am working towards my Cache Level 3. I have been teaching for 7 years in pre-school.

I have attended workshops and seminars in Early Childhood Education. I am happy to join AKELC this year where I can share my knowledge and teach children to speak and learn Arabic in a fun way.

Ms. Anna Mae Vallez

Teaching Assistant

I am Ms. Anna and I am from the Philippines. In September 2013, I was given the opportunity to join the Aga Khan Early Learning Centre as a Teacher Assistant. I hold a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, with a major in Early Childhood Education (ECE) from Pilgrim Christian College, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.

In line with my training I became a Teacher at Faith Christian School in my country working with preschoolers, KG 1, KG 2 and Year 1. I personally feel that being with children teaches me so much about myself and the world everyday – this is the biggest learning ever and I do really love that aspect of my role. As an educator I understand that learning is a continuous process and that for young children it should be exploratory, fun and supported by nurturing adults.

As a part of the AKELC family I devote myself to doing my best always. I look forward to working with your family this year to support your child's growth.

2-3 Year Old Class
Marigold Teaching Team

Ms. Rajwa Asslia

Arabic Teacher

Hello there, I am Ms. Rajwa. I am originally from Syria and have been living in Dubai for the last 10 years. This is my second academic year at AKELC as an Arabic Teacher. I have five years of experience in this field and I have recently finished my Cache level 3.

I love being with children, watching them as they grow and develop new skills. I love watching them especially when it comes to learning the Arabic language, and the enormous excitement they bring when they use Arabic words.

I am a mother of one and in my spare time, I love spending time with my family, in addition to reading books.

Ms. Nishita Dodhya

Assistant Teacher

My Name is Nishita Dodhya. I am from Mumbai, India. I am a mother of two and love being around children. I have received my Bachelor's Degree of Science in Human Development and Child Development. I have completed my Post Graduation Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education. I have 4 years experience in teaching preschoolers, and I am currently working towards my Cache Level 3.

Teaching young minds brings me joy and is my passion. I believe that the first few years of a child’s life are crucial in helping them to develop their little personalities, impacting their whole lives. I believe as a teacher we can nurture their skills, abilities, independence, creativity, imagination and knowledge by being there as supportive and encouraging adults. Providing children with opportunities for play, hands-on-experience and setting up an enabling environment help them to explore and learn about themselves and the world around them.

The best part of working with children is that they have no inhibitions and I can constantly learn and grow with them. I am looking forward to working at AKELC, doing the best I can to support children and their families.

Ms. Amber Afshan

English Teacher

Hi! My name is Amber and I come from the Northern Areas of Pakistan. I have an honors degree in Textile Design and have completed my Cache Level 3.

My inspiration to pursue Art Teaching in general and ECD in particular, started while I was working at Quest Edutainment Centre in Islamabad in 2013 – I realized the unique opportunity to bridge my passion and the chance to teach young minds to come to love Art as much as I do. I have also been working with Aga Khan Regional Education Board Islamabad (REB), one of the agencies of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) as a volunteer art and preschool teacher to provide development material for Early Childhood Development programs for children of 0-3 and to their parents.

ECD teaching has been a thriller for me, every time I work with young minds I get enthused by their wild imagination and creativity. I believe that the care and experiences that infants and toddlers receive during their early years has a powerful influence on how they view the world and relate to others. I also believe that a balanced, nurturing, caring, developmental approach to education for children can ensure a successful life. A child can learn, grow and discover the world while having fun and doing hands-on exploration of the world around them.

I look forward to be assisting the Preschool teachers at AKELC and working with our artists in the making!

Ms. Abegail Damian

Classroom Assistant

Hello, my name is Abegail and I was born and raised in the Philippines. I work with the Toddler class at AKELC. I have been working with children since 2013 and I absolutely love it. I enjoy every aspect of teaching and have realized in my years at AKELC that children can teach us as much as we can teach them. I am happy to be a part of the AKELC family again.

"Play is our brain's favorite way of learning." (Diane Ackerman)

1-2 Year Old Class
Sunflower Teaching Team

Ms. Hamida Vadsaria

Lead Teacher

My name is Hamida and I am an Early Childhood Teacher with a supervisory role in the Happy Honeybees classroom. I have a Bachelor's degree of Commerce awarded by the University of Mumbai. I worked with the Ismaili community institution as a professional office administrator for seven years and hence gained great administrative and people skills.

Since moving to New Zealand in the year 2002, I completed additional studies and was awarded a Graduate Diploma in Teaching, specializing in Early Childhood Education, by the University of Auckland. During my studies I started exploring the world of Early Childhood Education. I am humbled to say that my experience working with young children is quite varied, such as preschool, kindergarten and community settings over the last 11 years. Teaching children is my passion. It provides me an opportunity for continual learning and growth. I believe security and trust are very important components of my relationship with each child. Young children are very concerned about themselves and the small world they live in: family and home. However, each child is unique with different interests, backgrounds, and developmental stages. Therefore in planning our daily programs, we ensure activities are developmentally appropriate, that the environment is child-centered where children have the opportunity to master new challenges through activities and topics that are meaningful to them, thus building their self-esteem as they develop and learn.

I have been at the Aga Khan Early Learning Centre, Dubai since 2012 and I am proud to be part of this international team.

Ms. Nena Atanas

Classroom Assistant

Hi! My name is Nena. I started working at the Aga Khan Early Learning Centre in 2010 as the Housekeeper.

I have now moved into the Toddler Room as their Classroom Assistant and nanny. I love children and enjoy helping with their daily routine.

I think that all children need the love and care that their mother gives them when they are here with us at Nursery School. I have two children of my own back in the Philippines and I like to think that all the children here are like my own children: delightful and precious. I am always happy and try to ensure that the children in the Toddler Room are always happy too.

Ms. Sara Amiri

Classroom Assistant

Hello! My name is Sara Amiri. I am from Kabul, Afghanistan. I have over three years of teaching experience in an early childhood educational setting. Moreover, I have worked as a bilingual communicator of English and Persian languages for recruitment of Afghan students to Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad, India.

I am currently working as a Classroom Assistant Teacher at Aga Khan Early Learning Centre where I am responsible for helping teachers in planning and executing activities for children. I also assist children in social and developmental activities and help feed them, and generally provide one-on-one attention when needed. I further assist the teachers whenever needed. I am very fond of interacting with children, teaching them about various topics, such as numbers, colours and shapes to build their sensory skills, and I aid the children with exercises to develop their gross motor skills.

I am always eager to assist children in all areas of their day-to-day activities. The reason I love AKELC is because we provide children with high quality facilities where they can learn routines, self-help skills, education, linguistic development, muscle development, bonding with their peers and social development. Currently I am pursuing a Cache qualification which will help me to achieve my dream and benefit me to reach a level where I can provide the generation of toddlers to have a better way of living, learning and leading in their everyday aspects of life.

Ms. Ala'a Masri

Lead Arabic Teacher

My name is Ala'a Masri. I was born in the UAE and have lived here all my life. I am the lead Arabic teacher at the AKELC. I started working at AKELC in 2012 and I really enjoy my role. I have worked closely with many children with different learning styles and personalities. I'm very passionate about helping children to improve their language both in English and in Arabic. I strongly believe in using different teaching tools especially visual and interactive learning techniques can help young children learn quickly, especially in areas of language development.

I have a bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Al Ain, UAE, with a specialization in teaching English. Previously, I have carried extensive freelance translation work from English to Arabic and Arabic to English for professional companies and have privately tutored several children both in English and in Arabic.

As you can tell, I love languages and think there is great value and potential in starting toddlers and infants in bilingual programs early in their life.

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