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Kristi Aria


I was born and raised in southern Estonia and have lived in Tartu over 20 years. I am qualified as a primary school teacher and English as a foreign language teacher. I hold a master’s degree in school management from Tartu University. 

I have worked for Tartu International School since its foundation in 2001. As the first teacher and principal I was given a wonderful opportunity to help to create and develop our school. This has been, and still is, an exciting and inspiring journey! 

At TIS we are proud of the caring and inclusive ethos via which we set high standards and expectations for our students and teachers so that they can achieve their very best. It is very important for me that all our students and staff members feel happy and safe at school. I believe that a friendly and welcoming environment helps us all work and achieve better. 

As principal I am privileged to lead a group of dedicated, professional and talented teachers and staff members. They introduce themselves in short profiles below, but really, I hope that you will get a chance to meet them in person at our school in Tartu. Tartu successfully combines the infrastructure and facilities of a big city and the green and friendly environment of a small town; it is a wonderful place to work and learn. Welcome!

Kristi Aria is laureate of the Tartu School Leader of the Year 2018 award and was a nominee for the Estonian School Leader of the Year 2018. In 2016 Kristi was awarded a Citizen’s Day award by the Estonian Ministry of the Interior for bringing together the national and international communities of Tartu. Kristi has been awarded with the Baltic Defence College Medal of Merit Bronze.

Tiia Neuvonen


Tartu has always been my home town. I graduated from high school here and enrolled in Tartu University, where I got my master’s degree in Estonian language and literature. For about 15 years I worked as the CEO of Tampere House Foundation, which is a cooperative and cultural centre for the twin cities of Tartu in Estonia and Tampere in Finland. For a couple of years I also taught Estonian at Tartu University. After that, I decided to go back to Tartu University to study again, and now I have my other master’s degree in Estonian language and literature teaching. In addition to teaching Estonian, I am also the principal of Tartu Finnish School, which shares the schoolhouse and operates in close cooperation with Tartu International School. I feel so lucky to be able to work in this diverse and friendly environment. 

Maris Vohla

PYP Coordinator, Head of Studies, Grade 9 Class Teacher, Estonian FL

I was born in a little town called Kohtla-Järve that is located in the north-east of Estonia, only 50 km from the Russian border. I spent my childhood there until I graduated upper secondary school and moved to Tartu to study to be an Estonian as a foreign language teacher. After graduating, I moved to London to learn English and to travel. I started working at TIS in 2005 and have remained since then. I have also worked teaching adult learners in a Russian school. Working at TIS is positively challenging and there are never two years that are alike. The positive, friendly, and tolerant atmosphere creates an endearing place for both students and teachers.

Maris was Tartu International School’s Teacher of the Year in 2012.

Triin Simso

Grade 1 Class Teacher

I’m from Põlva- born and raised. In 2016 I moved to Tartu to study at the University of Tartu. From that moment I knew that my heart belonged here. So I wanted to work also in Tartu. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Early Education and Master’s in Education Innovation. My big passion is cooking. Experimenting with some new techniques or different cuisine is really exciting. I really love Mediterranean cuisine. I wanted to become a kindergarten teacher because I have always enjoyed spending time with children. Also kindergarten teacher work is never boring. For me, it is very important to love my job. I like working with children and supporting their development. Tartu International Kindergarten definitely offers me new challenges and I have to step out of my comfort zone and this gives me the best opportunity to prove that I am doing something that I absolutely love.

Maarika Kullamaa

Grade 2 Class Teacher

I was born in Kuressaare, which is the capital of Saaremaa, Estonia’s biggest island. I have studied special education at Tartu University. In 2008, after years of studies and travelling, I landed here, at TIS. My passions are neuropsychology and psycholinguistics. For me, human nature and communication are the most interesting areas. In my free time I mostly spend time with my daughter. If there is any time left, I love gardening, reading, sewing, and nature. Every year at TIS is different. This makes working here challenging and interesting. I believe that the common vision of results and good cooperation makes our school perfect – a place where teachers want to work and students do not want to leave.

Maarika was Tartu International School’s Teacher of the Year in 2018.

Evelyn Vahi

Grade 3 Class Teacher

I was born and raised in Tartu and have lived here most of my life. For shorter periods I have also lived in Finland and Spain. I am qualified as a primary school teacher and English as a foreign language teacher. I have worked as a teacher for more than twenty years already. I love working with kids; they are so sincere, open, and full of curiosity and energy. It is such an honour and responsibility to be part of their growth and development. My mother tongue is Estonian, but I also speak pretty good English, manage in Finnish and Russian, and have some primary knowledge of Spanish and German too. In my free time I love to be with my family and friends, do some sport, read, or watch a good film.

Evelyn was Tartu International School’s Teacher of the Year in 2014 and 2019.

Kirsi Kriit

Grade 4 Class Teacher

I was born and raised in Tartu, and am currently studying at Tartu University to get my MA in education specializing in handicraft and art. I knew from a young age that I was going to be a teacher and have worked with kids all my working life. I love being a teacher and the challenges that come with it. I enjoy helping them understand the world, learn new skills and find ways to be kind, passionate and creative. My native tongue is Estonian, and I speak English and a little bit of German. In my free time, I enjoy many nature-based activities – usually hiking and cycling. Mostly, I listen to music, read, and spend time with people I care about. 

Kirsi was Tartu International School’s Teacher of the Years 2021 and 2022 and the city of Tartu Class Teacher of the Year 2021.

Liina Maurer

Grade 5 Class Teacher, Estonian

I grew up in Tallinn and moved to Tartu to study at the University of Tartu. I am a French linguist by education, but I have also studied journalism, communication, and digital humanities. I speak Estonian, English, French and a little Russian. My deeper interest in the educational landscape began with the programme “Hariduse tulevikutegijad”. I truly believe that learning languages and literature is not just about grammar and books, but communication, analysis, and critical thinking. All of which are essential skills in the modern world.  

Elo-Kai Kurel

Grade 6 Class Teacher, Mathematics, Educational Technology Instructor

I grew up in a village 40 km from Tartu. After high school graduation I started to study mathematics at Tartu University. My mother tongue is Estonian and I also speak English. Additionally, I speak some German, Russian and Finnish. I have worked at TIS since 2003 and really enjoy it. I like the atmosphere of the school and the friendly relations between students and teachers. I have three children of my own.

Elo-Kai and her students are the authors of a trans-disciplinary learning module about ancient and medieval inventions. The module won the second prize at a national competition that promotes success stories in education.

Elo-Kai was Tartu International School’s Teacher of the Year in 2015 and 2019.

Jaak-Albert Metsoja

Grade 7 Class Teacher, Sciences

I originally come from Tallinnand have lived in Tartu since moving here to study semiotics and culture studies at Tartu University. Six years later, I changed the focus of my studies to biology. I specialized as a botanist and a plant ecologist. I have enjoyed linking my studies to practical activities in nature conservation to different non-governmental organizations. I defended my doctoral thesis in 2016, and then decided to join the “Teach for All” programme (Noored Kooli in Estonian) and to become a science teacher. I have been working at TIS since spring 2019. For me, science has to be based on first-hand personal experience – being outdoors, doing experiments, being able to touch, see, and hear your surroundings and to develop new pathways for learning based on these experiences.

Andreas McKeough

Grade 8 Class Teacher, English, History, Citizenship

I grew up in a small village in southern Finland as the son of an Australian father and a Finnish mother. After high school, I decided to leave the countryside and to move to Helsinki to become an urbanite. After a few years of work in a kindergarten and as a personal assistant to a disabled boy, I entered the University of Helsinki in 2003. I obtained my master’s degree in folklore studies in 2008 and defended my doctoral thesis early in 2017. In 2012 I moved to Estonia and I have been here ever since. I have worked as a teacher since 2015 and really like my work. It’s great to be a part of the life and education of young people. My hobbies include collecting old records, reading, cinematic history, disc golf, watching and playing football.

Andreas was Tartu International School’s Teacher of the Year in 2021.

Kadi Rätsepp 

Grade 9 Class Teacher, Sciences, Mathematics, PSHE

I was born in a small village called Vändra where I spent my childhood. After finishing high school in 2001, I began my studies at Tartu University where in 2007 I received a master’s degree in teaching biology. In 2005, during my studies, I became a science teacher at Tartu International School. In my free time, you would find me hiking and collecting all sorts of samples and snippets in order to present these to my students – from roe deer’s kidneys to pieces of oil shale, from beaver’s wood chips to ancient shark teeth. Being a science teacher in our school has been very rewarding, since the school environment makes it easy for students to become engaged and captivated by their schoolwork.

Kadi was TIS Teacher of the Year in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2022.

Vesta Voltein


I was born and raised in Tartu. In 1992 I moved to Tallinn to study at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and I lived there for eight years. I returned to Tartu in 2000. My mother tongue is Estonian and I speak English and Russian as well. I love music and children, too. Let’s sing and play! The choir or the band – music is fun!

Hasso Paap

Physical Education

I was born in Viljandi but raised in Vändra – a small village in south-west Estonia. After finishing upper secondary school in 2001, I came to Tartu in order to start my university studies at Tartu University, where I studied sports and physical education. At the moment I am working as a trainer and a teacher, but I have also previously worked in a sports shop. My passion is sports and long-distance running. I hope that I can transfer some of my passion to my students too!

Maria Paaver

History, Estonian, Citizenship, Director of Development (temporarly away)

I’m from a small town called Paide. After graduating high school I moved to Tartu and have been living here ever since. I have a bachelor’s degree in Estonian language and literature and a master’s degree in Estonian language and literature teaching from the University of Tartu. I have been working in Tartu International School since 2012 and I love the supportive atmosphere here. For a short time, I have also taught Estonian language and literature in Hugo Treffner Gymnasium. 

I spend most of my free time with my family, but I also enjoy reading classic novels, walking in the countryside and watching documentaries. I find teaching a very rewarding job, because I see value and purpose in working with children. It’s great to see my students’ progress and their joy from their own achievements.

Maria was Tartu International School’s Teacher of the Year in 2017.

Mikko Saarivuori

Free-time Club Teacher, Robotics Teacher

I grew up in a small city called Rauma that is located on the west coast of Finland. I have also lived a few years in Turku and moved to Tartu in 2016.
I have studied sports and coaching.
I have worked with children in schools, kindergartens, sports clubs and as a personal assistant for people with special needs. I also coach floorball in Tartu.
My native tongue is Finnish, and I speak English and some Estonian.
In my free time I like to play floorball, ice hockey, airsoft and go fishing.

Imbi Mesila

German as a Foreign Language

I am from Tartu born and raised. After finishing high school in 1980, I went to study German language and literature at the University of Tartu. After my master’s degree, I went to teach in my alma mater (formerly: Tartu 3rd Secondary School, now: Raatuse School). Working there was interesting, especially after the German Department (Deutsche Abteilung) was created/founded. I have worked as a teacher for 35 years now – with different age groups from kindergarten to adults. Since I love to travel so much, I have been working as a tour guide for the last 23 years and guided groups in 25 different European countries. If I get any free time, I usually spend it reading, gardening, or hanging out with my grandchildren.

Imbi was Tartu’s Class Teacher of The Year in 2015.


Liia Salum

German as a Foreign Language

I was born and raised on Saaremaa in a small village by the sea. After high school graduation, I studied German philology for five years at Tartu University. In 2006 I started studying again and in 2011 received a master’s degree in teaching English. I like teaching and love languages. Besides German and English, I can also speak Italian, Swedish, and Russian. At the moment I am attending a French course at B2.2. level. My hobbies are reading, gardening, and cooking. I also love physical activity. I adore my grandchildren and spend as much time as possible with them.

Yanni Hrysicos

English Teacher

I am from Australia which is where I grew up. I am also of Greek heritage and nationality, both my parents having emigrated from Greece to Australia in the 1950s. I lived in the United Kingdom (specifically, the land of the dragon… Wales!) for over twenty years, until the time I moved to Estonia in May 2019 with my Estonian wife and young daughter.
I was a teacher in Australia and the U.K. in sports science for many years before opening and running a cafe, overlooking the sea in south west Wales. Since moving to Estonia, I have rediscovered teaching through English language. I enjoy spending time with my family, the countryside and being close to nature, good food, ‘proper’ espresso coffee, random but interesting conversations with friends, listening to music, playing guitar.

Diāna Timermane

Latvian Teacher, Swimming Teacher

I come from a Latvian city called Jelgava. But my professional and educational path started in Riga where I studied the bachelor’s program “International Economics and Commercial Diplomacy” and soon I got accepted to study abroad in Tartu. Around the same time, I got an opportunity to be one of the founders of “Synchronized Swimming School” in Riga. This gave me enough confidence and courage to start my own “Swim in Eesti” where people learn to swim and I learn how to train and support people of different age groups and motivation levels by using swimming techniques. Next to teaching, I develop swimming sports everyday from an anatomical position, as a professional/free-time sport, and lately I have been enjoying cooking and DJ’ing and playing piano keyboard as much as sharing with people thoughts and dreams.

Eevi Allikvee

Dinner Lady

I was born in a small village called Puhja and have lived my whole life in Tartu. I am a trained baker. I have had many jobs and they have all been connected to food. I have worked as a baker in restaurant Volga, as a chef in a kindergarten, as a beer maker in Tartu Beer Factory and a baker in Astri Bakery. And now I have been working in Tartu International School for more than a decade already.

Rauno Pakkanen

IT Expert

I was born in Tartu and have lived here most of my life. I have been working with computers for more than twenty years and taking care of International School’s IT systems since 2014.
In my free time I love to be with my family and go fishing with my sons. I’m also a sports fan and I have been playing football in Estonian lower leagues for almost twenty years.