BEANZ Membership

All professional educators who have an interest in Biology Education in New Zealand are encouraged to become members of BEANZ.

Membership of BEANZ is via membership of NZASE. A supplementary subscription is payable for NZASE members to become a member of BEANZ.


Pru Casey – Curriculum Development

Pru teaches boys Science and Biology at Otago Boys High School. The school borders on the Town Belt and the study of native bush is central to biology studies in her classes. With a beautiful garden and home by the sea at Warrington, Pru also ensures that Biology students understand the importance of the estuary in their Biology studies. Kiaitakitanga is a central theme! Pru comes to teaching from the Business sector with an MBA and a background in tourism and EOTC in Central Otago, Central North Island and Nelson. Now resident in Dunedin, she has embraced the opportunities of networking in an urban environment – convening the Otago Science Teachers association, BioLive and SciCon conferences, teaching on the Masters of teaching program at Otago Uni and representing the people of Aotearoa on the Biosecurities Committee advising on development of new organisms (GMOs) and import of new organisms. Pru is on the executive committee of the NZIBO (Biology Olympiad) and helps run the annual camp for this bright and enthusiastic group of Biology students. A keen networker, Pru has been writing BEANZ exams for several years and now produces practice Bio Schol exams with the help of NZIBO colleagues for everyone to use for free. A keen swimmer and lifeguard with a love of the mountains and bush – Pru is, of course, a biologist who believes that the curriculum should be a living thing. We welcome Pru to the Curriculum Committee of BEANZ

Erica Jar – Curriculum Development

Erica Jar is a biology teacher at Solway College. She has been a teacher for 12 years, retraining after returning from the United Kingdom. This is her third career, her first was as a lab technician in research laboratories in Auckland. That was back in the days when DNA sequencing was still done with radioactive isotopes an PCR hadn’t yet gone real-time. She considers herself lucky enough to have worked for Dr Andrew Broadwell, trying to engineer pest resistant tomatoes (the classical B. thuringiensis experiments we still read about from time to time), and then at Genesis Research looking at gene promoters, by which time DNA sequencing had gone high throughput, fluorescent markers (thank goodness). Her second career was in sales and marketing for the ‘tools of a geneticist’s trade’, including real-time PCR equipment. She joined BEANZ because they needed a regional representative for the West Coast but has since moved to the Wairarapa and picked up this region. She loves ecology and is kaitiaki of Solway College’s QEII native forest restoration project. She likes to create contextual units of learning and finds this a particularly rewarding way of teaching junior science classes. You’ll find some of her work on the West Coast Penguin Trust website. In 2019 she created a unit that focuses on the tuna kuwharuwharu (longfin eel) and, with her HoD, a unit called ‘Design a Zoo’, which the entire Solway College staff are supporting, since it requires skills learned in every subject. The role of the three curriculum development execs is to place learning activities on the BEANZ website for everyone to use. Erica is excited to join the team and get started with this.

Sharyn Varcoe – Senior Vice President

Involved in education since 2003, Sharyn passionately believes that professional development of educators is one of the keys to improved outcomes for all learners. This has led to her involvement in BEANZ, initially as Canterbury regional representative and co-chair of the BioLive2013 conference and latter as president.

She is currently Deputy Principal at Oxford Area School, a rural Years 1 to 15 school in North Canterbury. In her spare time she can usually be found making the most of the amazing environs of Canterbury with her partner and grown-up children.

Chantal Hillier – President (Regional Rep Liason)

Chantal joined BEANZ in 2018, since then she’s been working closely with BEANZ executive, regional representatives and facilitators, on a range of projects, to build the capacity of our subject association as a Network of Expertise. Having worked on a range of other executives over the years, Chantal brings valuable expertise to the Biology Educators in Aotearoa New Zealand. She also has prior experience in Primary Industry including hard commodities, extraction and Computer Science. Chantal is interested in all things science; with a special interest in Microbiology and Medicine. Having a broad background, she’s often looking to utilise cross curriculum links, STEM, meaningful progressions and pathways and data analysis to support learning outcomes for students. Chantal is grateful for the support and mentorship that Biology educators have given her, and hopes that she can give back in a meaningful way through her work on the executive.

Libby Caygill – Secretary

Libby has worked as a Developmental Biologist in labs in the USA and UK. After a 13 year career in research, gaining experience teaching at a tertiary level, she chose to make secondary teaching the focus of her future career. She is passionate about increasing public understanding of science and has a lot of fun making Genetics and Molecular Biology accessible to her own students. She is currently teaching at Cashmere High School in Christchurch.

Kenneth Loh – Exam Coordinator

Kenneth is a full time Bio/Science teacher at Ormiston Senior College in Auckland where he has been in charge of developing the Senior Biology curriculum since the realignment years in 2012. As a longtime fan of the assessment resources that BEANZ develops each year, he decided to join the exam writing team in 2016. In 2018 we managed to rope Kenneth into becoming our Examination Co-coordinator. He is now responsible for overseeing the production of the BEANZ exams each year. Kenneth has always enjoyed being involved with assessment and resource development, and hopes to give back to the Biology community, in this way.

Holly Wilson – Newsletter

Ian Reeves – Curriculum Development

Ian worked in his early career as a research biologist and outdoor educator before transitioning into education about 9 years ago. He is always looking for ways to bring current research into the classroom and finding opportunities to get students into the field and experience real life biology. He enjoys finding innovative ways to approach curriculum and assessment that focus on building students skills and capabilities.

Originally from Canada, Ian moved here over ten years ago and has fallen in love with the country. He spends a lot of his free time exploring with his partner and two little kiwis. He is currently the head of Science at Papanui High School in Christchurch.

Dr Nic Rawlence – Tertiary Representative

Dr Nic Rawlence is the director of the Otago Palaeogenetics Laboratory. His research projects include:

Impact of humans and climate change on New Zealand’s terrestrial, coastal and marine fauna

Evolution and phylogeography of New Zealand’s extinct avian fauna

Southern hemisphere biogeography

Fisheries induced evolution

Peter Sutton – Treasurer

Ben Himme – Website Coordinator

Ben is a full-time Biology teacher at Napier Girls High. In his spare time he develops  his own website for Science & Biology Teachers – (voted Interface Magazines Best Digital Resource 2015).  Ben is passionate about teaching Biology and was awarded a runner-up prize in the 2014 Warehouse Stationary NZ’s Most Inspiring Teachers competition. Ben is currently working on digital infrastructure for NZASE to improve the registration process to which BEANZ is tied. Ben chairs the Hawkes Bay Science and Technology Fair and enjoy riding Vespas / collecting Lego in his spare time.