About Us

The River School is an independent, co-educational Primary School and Early Childhood Centre located in a beautiful rainforest valley in Maleny, Queensland. 

The guiding philosophy of The River School is Neohumanist Education. Based on Neohumanism, the philosophy of the innate oneness of all things, we seek to instill in children an innate sense of love and compassion for all beings: people, animals, plants, and even the inanimate matter of the whole universe.

Our school is a loving community of like-minded families who honour children as individuals and work to create a harmonious learning environment where children, families and staff feel a sense of belonging, respect and community.

School History

In the mid 1980s, 52 acres of farm and rainforest land was purchased by a group of like-minded individuals keen to establish a community housing cooperative. The yellow house, current classroom to our Lillypilly (Yr 1) class, is the original farmhouse and communal living space that was fondly referred to as the “pink house”.

Initially the land was known as the Maleny Land Community and a number of the original shareholders still reside on the community land above the School, now known as the Prout Community Settlement Cooperative. Many of the original residents identified as Ananda Marga, hence the Sanskrit name for the land – Ananda (bliss, happiness) Kamala (lotus).

Once the community of residents were settled they began thinking about schooling options for their children and possible service projects. Some Maleny locals had heard about the Ananda Marga community in their town and drawn by the Neohumanist philosophy of love and caring for all, decided to befriend their town’s newest residents.

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It wasn’t long before the vision of creating a Neohumanist school as a service project on the land gathered momentum. A preschool run by Prabha (Pepa Demasson) was the first step towards a school. Often held at the creek, this preschool was attended by Ananda Marga children and other local families. It was these children that came up with the name The Wet and Wild River School that was later amended to the Ananda Marga River School.

In 1995, the 25 acres of land set aside for the school received the stamp of approval by the Department of Education. The school began with 23 students of mixed ages learning as one family in the little pink house. Dada Ratnaprakash (whom many knew as Dada Ratnadevananda) was appointed Principal in October 1995, and remained in that position until December 2010. Prabha was appointed Administrator and spent eighteen dedicated years, including three of those years in the Principal position, developing, nurturing and building the heart and love that is the River School. In mid 2013, Jenny Oakley took over the helm as Principal, and in 2017, Ann Donoghoe, a staff member of the River School since 1997, was appointed current Principal.

The first River School teacher was Trudi Cauley who remembers “… the way everyone loved and cared for each other. All the children played and learned together. The younger children adored the older children. They would create games together, a favourite being a make-believe world in which they made up rules, teams and characters.” Today that same magical sense of fun and love is captured in games at lunch times, buddy classes, service projects, yoga and meditation, the Arts and a dedicated staff team committed to achieving the objectives of the Australian Curriculum while creating a learning environment that ensures our young people are safe, happy and free to learn.

Over time the School has witnessed many changes as a result of its physical and social growth, however the one constant has been our commitment to Neohumanist Education.

“Neohumanism takes the inner spirit of humanism (love of humanity) and expands it to also embrace plants, animals and indeed the entire universe. Neohumanism recognises diversity but also emphasises the interconnectedness of all things. A Neohumanist education seeks to cultivate in children their already innate capacity for love and compassion. In the words of Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar who first propounded the philosophy and who founded a global network of Neohumanist schools:
“When the love of the human heart extends its embrace to the entire living and non-living worlds, this is Neohumanism.”1

Today our beautiful River School and Early Childcare Centre is a thriving, loving community providing multi-dimensional learning to close to 200 young people and their families. We are grateful to the many adults, including our Dada’s and Didi’s, the children and events that have shaped and will continue to shape the River School way. It is with great enthusiasm we move into The River School future firmly wearing our Neohumanist lenses with the love and care that embodies the heart of our School.

A Great Foundation Lasts a Lifetime.

Our Wonderful Staff

Ann Donoghoe

Ann Donoghoe

Principal

My journey as an educator began in 1990 when I was accepted into Edith Cowan University in Western Australia to complete my Bachelor of Education. After graduating in 1994, I taught in a number of Government and Independent Schools. In 1997 I was delighted to take up a permanent teaching position with The River School.

Read more about Ann

I was drawn to this particular School as its Neohumanist philosophy aligned beautifully with my belief that young people need access to a variety of opportunities to positively develop their social, emotional, spiritual, physical and mental capacities. 

In the 22 wonderful years I have been with The River School, I have gained valuable experience in the positions of Senior Teacher, Deputy Principal and now Principal. With my Restorative Practice background and deep passion for education, it is an honour to lead The River School on its continued journey of real and rich learning for our young people to grow into responsible global citizens who will make positive contributions to the world.

Rebecca Judah

Rebecca Judah

Business Manager

Read more about Rebecca

I bring to my role a diverse background of knowledge and skills from my years working in the Finance sector as a Business Analyst as well as my previous career in Hospitality and Events Management.  I have two children who have called The River School home since they were just little 2 years olds at the Early Childhood Centre, with my eldest just graduating Year 6 in 2018.  I have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside them as they’ve grown and the River School has been an absolute haven for them. It has equipped them with the quiet confidence and valuable real life skills that will be essential for the future.

I often say that I have the best job in the world but my favourite part of my job is knowing that students and families always know that they can call on me for help.  My work is diverse and fulfilling and I feel very lucky to be able to build and nurture amazing relationships with our beautiful school community.  

Sue Attrill

Sue Attrill

Deputy Principal

Sue has worked in Education for 35 years as a Teacher, Leader, Advisor and Consultant.
She is passionate about working with schools and teachers and has worked extensively assisting schools to build robust relationships systems. Sue facilitates training for educators in the areas of Positive Relationship building, Restorative Practices and Circle Work. As the Director of Relationships @ School Pty Ltd, Sue continues to assist schools to develop safe and supporting learning environments.
Pira Bereziat

Pira Bereziat

Office Manager

Since I began here at the River School in 2007, I’ve experienced a number of roles, familiarising myself with different aspects of education and childcare. I began initially as one-on-one support, then a Learning Assistant for the Prep class as I completed my Cert 111 in Education Support. In 2013, I jumped over to the Role of Officer Manager, where I remain to this day! 

 During this time, I’ve completed my Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care, meaning I’m qualified (and lucky enough) to spend time with anyone that needs a helping hand; from our little ones down in the ECC, all the way through to our Year 6’s.

Read more about Pira

 Outside of school, I am a mother to three, and am a big kid at heart – I feel so blessed that I get to spend my time here at The River School playing and getting to know students while I work. 

Deborah Brennan (Deb/Debbie)

Deborah Brennan (Deb/Debbie)

Admin and Principal's PA

Hello everyone! I’m Deborah Brennan but most call me Deb or Debbie, originally from Australia but a proud Dubliner for most of my life. Nearly seven years ago, I embarked on a return journey to my homeland, first exploring the west coast before settling in the unique town of Katherine, Northern Territory. Now, I’m incredibly excited to begin a new chapter in the peaceful, beautiful Maleny!

I bring a wealth of administrative skills from various fields, including aviation and education. When I’m not working, you’ll likely find me indulging in my love for the outdoors: fishing, camping, exploring nature walks, and simply soaking it all in. My interests also include keeping active, socialising, music events and films. Good coffee & food, great company, and a small-town atmosphere are also close to my heart.

I’m thrilled to be joining the team at The River School and can’t wait to meet you all! Please don’t hesitate to pop in and say hello!

Paula Beaumont

Paula Beaumont

Puggles (Prep) Teacher

I am Paula, the Prep teacher at the River School in Maleny. My family and I emigrated to Australia from England a few years ago. I am married and have a son and daughter who are now teenagers. We live in Palmwoods with my two gorgeous dogs who emigrated with us. I have a Primary School Teacher Bachelor of Arts teaching degree which specialised in Early Childhood. I have over twelve years’ experience of teaching children in Prep class.

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I believe that children in Prep learn successfully through a play based environment. I enjoy teaching and strive to make it a fun, enjoyable, educational experience for all children. I ensure that my teaching is accessible for all learning styles and is differentiated for all abilities within my class. I also consider a child’s personal, social and emotional education is paramount to a child’s overall education and well-being. The children in my classes learn through a thematic approach based on their own ideas and thoughts. The learning is based on a wide range of play activities focused on the current theme.  It provides the children with a balance of child initiated, teacher initiated and teacher led learning in the classroom and in the outside environment. I consider that when the children enjoy their learning they are interested, motivated and learn to become independent focused learners.

I feel very lucky to work in this beautiful school and teach in such an amazing environment, alongside such a dedicated, caring team of people. I love working at the River School because all the teachers are dedicated to fostering and cultivating every child’s whole self through developing their emotional, physical, spiritual and mental knowledge and understanding of themselves, each other, and of everything in the world around them in a supportive, caring environment.

Kristy O'Neill

Kristy O'Neill

Lillypilly (Year 1) Team Teacher

I have an extensive educational background, having worked in both primary and secondary schools as a teacher, specialist teacher in learning support and school literacy coach and mentor, before moving into administration as The River School’s Deputy Principal. In 2021, I will be moving back into the classroom as Senior Teacher and following my passion back to face-to-face teaching.

Tamara Kipping (Tam)

Tamara Kipping (Tam)

Lillypilly (Year 1) Team Teacher

Read more about Tamara

Cindy Darabi - on leave

Cindy Darabi - on leave

Kingfishers (Year 2) Teacher

I am both an artist and educator and these areas continually crossover throughout my career. I’ve taught in a range of school settings throughout Queensland and overseas both in the role of teacher and facilitator and have a Degree in Visual Arts, a Graduate Degree in Education (Primary) and a Masters of Performing Arts.

 

I first began my teaching career in 2004 as Arts Teacher on a remote Indigenous community. This learning experience helped me to respect and value First Nations people, culture and country so I strive to incorporate an understanding of First Nations perspectives into my curriculum planning.

Read more about Cindy

I also teach and direct through Sylph Circus, the Maleny based youth circus that I established in 2011. I’m passionate about supporting children and young people to tell their stories through the arts and have seen how it empowers them with confidence and self-belief.

 

I love teaching Year 2’s at The River School and value our community’s focus on mindfulness and relationships. I value our approach to education and strive towards getting the balance right between the explicit teaching of literacy and numeracy and cultivating a holistic, expansive mindset and world view. I practise meditation daily and have done so for many years now. I believe that knowing how to centre yourself is key to living a happy life, so it’s wonderful to see meditation benefit the lives of our children here at the River School.

Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan

Kingfisher (Year 2) Teacher

Hi, I’m Mary and I feel privileged to be the Kingfisher teacher at The River School this year. I am a qualified primary school teacher, and have been teaching for 20 years, with experience across all year levels including multi age classrooms. I value hands on, play based learning for all ages and I love to design outdoor activities and lessons to support learning, maintain engagement, develop self-awareness, extend problem solving skills, build resilience, engage nuerodiverse thinkers and involve students in real life activities. I encourage self-directed learning and exploratory play. I support children to find solutions to their problems and to build the confidence they need to risk failing, and then to try again. Resilience is a key component of my teaching philosophy.  First and foremost to a successful learning journey is the rapport that needs to be developed between myself and my students and I pride myself that this is one of my strengths. My classroom becomes my school family and we work and grow together over the year. I also value community involvement in my profession and have been responsible for the organisation and implementation of many school events at several of the schools I have worked and volunteered at, always working collaboratively with staff, families and children.   

Read more about Mary

I am married with grown up children and even some grandchildren. I enjoy walking, cycling, hiking, gardening, nature, photography and exploring new places. My husband and I recently travelled around Australia for a whole year, which has given us both a new appreciation for our wonderful country. We live in the lovely green Hinterland area of the Sunshine Coast where family and friends are very important to us.  I am very excited to be part of the teaching team at The River School this year.

Annie Willrich

Annie Willrich

Piccabeen (Year 3) Teacher

I gained my Degree in Education at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. I majored in psychology and sports science as they were my interests at that time. I absolutely loved my years of study there and knew, without a doubt that I had chosen the right career as I knew I wanted students under my care to sincerely believe in themselves and feel valued, supported, understood and encouraged as learners and as people and also to embrace their own subtle individuality and creativity. 

Read more about Annie

It is important to me to foster self- awareness, self-management, motivation &  independence in my students as well and be a catalyst in their life long love of learning.

I have taught at a variety of schools ranging from small schools with a dominant indigenous demographic, such as my first position at Stradbroke Island where I experienced the most amazing professional and personal life, surfing with many of my students and enjoying the rich, indigenous culture to large inner-city schools.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my many and varied teaching experiences spanning over the past three decades of my life and have held a variety of positions within this time. My other passions have included English and Speech and Drama, so I have spent time pursuing an associate degree with Trinity College –London in Speech and Drama ( A. S . D. L – Hons) and another associate degree with Speech and Drama of Australia, (Hons). I have run many drama workshops and staged musicals and child drama productions in Brisbane. I also used my skills to support psychologists and other related professionals with motivating and helping young students in crisis and experiencing difficulty, as an act of service outside of my working life.

Another of my life long passions is yoga. My first experience with it at 16 had such an impact on me that I became a teacher of yoga when I was 23. Yoga plays such an important and integral part of my everyday life and I practice it daily! I engage my students in it daily aswell and have found it has a deep and positive effect on their social and emotional development, health, attitude and therefore their ability to learn.
 
I am currently teaching Year 3 at our amazing River School and apart from enjoying our beautiful, natural environment  I thrive under the expectation of versatility  and teaching excellence. I am extremely grateful also that I can bring my creativity, love of yoga, my passion for facilitating rich pedagogy to challenge students and support a variety of learning styles and my love of nature all together in the one place. I have certainly found my place here at The River School as it is so important to me to work in an environment with like minded individuals with open, curious and questioning minds and compassionate hearts who wish to make a difference to the world. It is also a privilege to be part of a supportive school community where I feel I belong, as I understand just how important this type of  compassionate scaffolding  is to the life long happiness and development of young students.

Lynne Corbett

Lynne Corbett

Wattles (Year 4) Teacher

My life has been full of variety and adventure having been self employed in several businesses prior to my teaching career. 
With a Bachelor of Communications in Creative Writing and another in Digital Arts I am creatively driven. As such I try and bring as much creativity into my teaching practice. When I chose to complete my Masters of Primary School Teaching it allowed me a final career destination that satisfies my adoration of children. My motivations while children are under my wing is to inspire them to be curious, creative and caring. 

 

Read more about Lynne
I am very social, enjoying the company of an eclectic group of friends. Family is very important to me so I am fortunate to have loving parents, siblings, partner, our three children and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Chanel. Chelsea is our eldest and she is soon to complete her Bachelor of Musical Theatre. Chelsea has been performing since she was little on the stage as pianist, singer and actress. Hopefully when Chelsea completes her studies she will be able to join my class for some musical inspiration. Sebastian is completing his degree in economics and business at the end of this year. He is also a musician playing piano and guitar so my house has always been full of music. Kouta is halfway through his engineering degree and has a love of road trips, both in Australia and overseas. 
My spare time is spent at the gym, hiking, photography, writing, reading, travelling and cooking. Having recently moved to the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland, a lifelong dream of mine, we are enjoying the stunning hikes and drives in the area. 
I am delighted to be a valued member of the teaching staff at this beautiful school that aligns with my teaching and life principals and look forward to meeting the many families that help make up our special community.
Fiona Stewart Mills

Fiona Stewart Mills

Regents (Year 5) Teacher

 

Sam Chen

Sam Chen

Red Cedar (Year 6) Team Teacher

 

I am a passionate teacher that believes in real-world learning through project-based opportunities, self-growth, and developing relationships through community connection. I love sharing my experiences with young people and empowering them to engage with life and Country.

 

Read more about Sam

I am a father, husband, brother and son. I currently live in Maleny with my partner Dominique, and my son Arlo who attends the River School. I grew up in Adelaide, and have lived/worked in various places including Kangaroo Island (SA), the Northern Territory, New Zealand, the UK, Norway, Sri Lanka and across Queensland.

 

I have a background in environmental management, film-making and teaching, which has seen me work with communities and environments across Australia and the world. I have worked in numerous professional positions, including a Park Ranger (NT), Field Assistant on Koala Programs (SA), and a Camera Operator and Editor for the ABC (News and Current Affairs).

 

With my partner Dominique, over the past 15 years, we have also run a successful project-based business across the Arts/Media and Music industries, where we have been internationally and nationally recognised for various projects. www.walkingstory.com.au

 

I have been teaching for many years on the job, including: team-leading field assistants on scientific projects; as a Park Ranger teaching burning practices, wildlife surveys, and community programs; and completing Music/Media and Arts workshop programs on remote First Nations communities. In 2016, I completed a Graduate Diploma of Learning and Teaching, and have since worked in various high schools and primary schools, including a stint in a Leadership role.  

 

I also have a Research Masters in Science Communication (Natural History Filmmaking), Bachelor of Arts (Screen Studies/Environmental Studies), & Bachelor of Environmental Management.

Amy Mortimer

Amy Mortimer

Red Cedars (Year 6) Team Teacher

 

Hi, I’m Amy.

I am passionate about employing pedagogical approaches to spark students’ creativity, curiosity, passion, and love of learning. Using approaches like Universal Design for Learning, Design Thinking and Inquiry frameworks have allowed me to cater to a range of student learning needs by crafting teaching and learning opportunities that meet curriculum outcomes in purposeful, relevant, and meaningful ways.  My broad range of teaching experiences have included working with students who are EAL/D, neurodiverse, and those who require extension below and/or beyond their ‘curriculum’-age. Employing strength-based approaches has helped me to engage and motivate students to access all areas of the curriculum.

I feel very privileged to be part of the learning community at The River School.

 

Sharon Crane

Sharon Crane

LOTE (Japanese) Teacher

I started my Japanese studies at Griffith University and completed a BA in Asian studies and then a Graduate Diploma in Japanese language.  I then received a Japanese Government Monbusho scholarship to attend Akita University in Northern Japan where I completed a 1-year intensive Japanese language course and then a 2-year Master of Education. I then returned to Sydney to work for Nikko Securities and after 1 year,  I was transferred to their main office in Tokyo.  Nikko was bought by Citibank so after 3 years in Japan I was transferred to Citibank London and 2 years later I moved to Tokyo Mitsubishi Ginkou London.  In 2004 my daughter was born so I moved back to Australia and complete a 1-year Graduate Diploma in Education at USC.  I hope that my students, by learning Japanese, will be able to access some of the amazing opportunities that I have.  In the words of Frank Smith,”One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”

Alieta Belle

Alieta Belle

Curriculum Design, Arts & Cultural Studies Teacher

I am a passionate advocate for integrating creativity with learning, and promoting quality Arts, Media and Environmental education for young people. I love being the Arts and Cultural Studies Teacher at the River School; teaching Visual Arts and Media Arts to the students across the school. I have a Bachelor Degree in Visual Arts and a Grad Dip in Primary Teaching.

Read more about Alieta

I have a professional background of over 15years working in digital video production, particularly working with young people and Indigenous communities on diverse community cultural development projects. In Media Arts classes at the River School, I teach students clay animation and video editing skills. I was asked to provide work samples to the Australian Curriculum Authority (ACARA) for the national Media Arts curriculum.

Each year I program numerous Arts and Cultural experiences for our students to engage with, such as excursions to theatres, participation in local art events and workshops with local artists and parents.  I am really proud of The Arts program offered at the River School! In 2015 I trained as a facilitator for the ‘Celebration Day for Girls’ program. This is a unique program offered at our school, which celebrates what it means to be a Girl!

I also co-ordinate the Year 5 River School student’s involvement in the ‘Kids in Action’ environmental conference. Each year, we explore a new theme and I work with the students to create a workshop, display and film about their topic.

I have been involved with the River School since 2006, when my daughter first came here. I have three children and they all have attended to the River School. The River School nourishes children’s childhood and grows a deep love of learning and belief in self. Equally, the River School is a great environment to teach in!

Opal Sternbaum

Opal Sternbaum

Learning Support (Empowerment) Teacher

I am passionate about educating and supporting the whole child and creating an environment of trust and collaboration. I focus on providing an equitable learning experience and fostering inclusive communities. I use a trauma-informed approach and identify and celebrate each student’s strengths. I have taught in a range of settings from the Northern Territory to Victoria and I am excited to be taking on the Empowerment Teacher role and using my skills to support and empower young people to engage with their learning.

Arion Bereziat (They/Them)

Arion Bereziat (They/Them)

Student Wellbeing Officer

I’m very excited to be moving into the Student Wellbeing role this year, offering our students extra social/emotional support as needed. I bring to the role a Diploma of Counselling, a qualification in Youth Work, and a continued interest/education in Sociology. While this role does not offer professional counselling sessions, my background and passion for these subjects largely informs my ability to connect with students and identify areas of need. 

 

Kerrie Kirwan

Kerrie Kirwan

Librarian/Teacher

I think from the first day of school in Year One I dreamt of becoming a teacher.  As a little girl we would play schools at home and guess who ALWAYS got to play the role of teacher?  I taught my little brother to read when he was only four years old, I was a very mature nine at the time!  I feel blessed to have been taught by some truly inspiring teachers who have been role models throughout my career.

Read more about Kerrie

I studied in Toowoomba following Year 12 and was posted to Biloela to teach Preschool after graduating.  Most of my teaching career has been spent in the Callide Valley and I think I have taught at every school within a 50 kilometre radius of Biloela except for Biloela State High School.  My teaching roles have been extremely varied and covered a broad spectrum from classroom teaching (Kindergarten to Year 7) to the more specialised roles of Enrichment Coordinator and Teacher Librarian.

I believe that the most important factor that influences learning is the relationship and connection between the students and their teacher.  Once this is established, students feel valued and respected for their beautiful uniqueness and individuality. Coming to The River School was like a breath of fresh air in a teaching career that felt, at the time, a little stale.  I just don’t believe that any other school I have taught in fits so well with my personal beliefs on education and the values and virtues that I hold as central to my core as a human being and as an educator.  In a world that is becoming more disconnected as a result of so many social and technological changes, it is so reassuring to have the opportunity to play a small part in creating the amazing environment that is The River School.  Being the Red Cedars teacher (Year 6) is a huge responsibility and one that I just love.  

It is an honour to have the privilege of guiding our school leaders in their final year at The River School.  They are amazing young men and women who will certainly make a difference in the world.

Quick Links

Latest school events

There are always so many exciting and enriching events and activities happening at The River School. Take a look at some of the latest news from around school and beyond...

Contact Information

The River School
251 Bridge Creek Road  (PO Box 411)  Maleny QLD 4552
Primary School: (07) 5494 3559
admin@riverschool.com.au 

Early Childhood: (07) 5499 9359
rsecc@riverschool.com.au 

 

Latest school events

There are always so many exciting and enriching events and activities happening at The River School. Take a look at some of the latest news from around school and beyond...

Contact Information

The River School
251 Bridge Creek Road  (PO Box 411)  Maleny QLD 4552
Primary School: (07) 5494 3559
Early Childhood Centre: (07) 5499 9359
admin@riverschool.com.au