Contact us: +372 742 4241 | info@istartu.ee

Teachers

Kristi Aria

Principal

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.

Elo-Kai Kurel

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.

Kadi Rätsepp 

Sciences, Mathematics, PSHE

I was born in a small village in south-west Estonia called Vändra where I spent my entire 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. My mother tongue is Estonian. I speak fluent English and German to a satisfactory level. I enjoy everything related to nature and science. 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 caring and professional staff and school environment makes it easy for students to become engaged and captivated by their schoolwork.

Kadi was Tartu International School’s Teacher of the Year in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Maarika Kullamaa

Grade 1 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.

Kirsi Kriit

Grade 2 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. 

Maris Vohla

PYP Coordinator, Head of Studies, Grade 8 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.

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 have mostly worked with smaller kids, but also have experience with adults in some language schools abroad. 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.

Heidi Erbsen

Grade 5 Class Teacher, English

I am from the small town of Pearl City Illinois, USA, where I grew up being active in community activities such as Girl Scouts, Youth Group, and the American Legion Auxiliary. I graduated from Seton Hall University with a degree in International Relations and a great deal of experience teaching ESL in my university community and at the English Plus Summer Program in Nerekhta, Russia. After college, I gained my TEFL certificate in Saint Petersburg, Russia and have spent the last few years teaching English in various locations in Russia, Spain, and now Estonia, where I am continuing my own education in Media and Communications at Tartu University. Besides speaking English as my native language, I also speak Spanish and Russian fairly well and am doing my best to learn Estonian. In addition to learning and teaching, I love virtually all sports and physical activity and strive to help students to find their own balance in becoming strong mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Jaak-Albert Metsoja

Sciences

Now a citizen of Tartu, I originally come from Tallinn, where I graduated from Tallinn 21st  School in 1997. I 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, biology and science in general has to be based on first-hand personal experience – being outdoors, doing experiments, being able to touch, smell, see, and hear your surroundings and to develop new ideas and pathways for learning based on these experiences.

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.

Vesta Voltein

Music

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!

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.

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. We worked there, hand in hand, with teachers from Germany. Besides German, I also had to teach history in German.

I have worked as a teacher for 35 years now non-stop and to different age groups from kindergarten to adults. In 2015 I received the Teacher of the Year award for Tartu. 

One of my hobbies is travelling and 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. I teach them German, and they teach me Finnish and Spanish. I am fluent in Estonian, German and Russian, but I have also taken some English, Finnish and Italian courses.

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

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!

Andreas McKeough

Grade 6 & 7 class teacher, English, History, Citizenship

I grew up in a small village in southern Finland, in the glorious 1980s, as the son of an Australian father and a Finnish mother. Most of my village spoke Swedish, a minority language in Finland, which I also picked up as a child. 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.

Liina Maurer

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.  

Tiia Neuvonen

Estonian

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. 

Liina Muttik-Nevalainen

Estonian as a Foreign Language

I grew up in a small town in Estonia called Elva and then moved to Tallinn to study Finnish philology. As Finnish is my second mother tongue, I moved to Finland to do my master’s degree there. I met my husband in Helsinki and we moved to North Karelia in Finland. I have worked as a Finnish teacher for 10 years. Two years ago our family wanted to move to Estonia to learn and discover our children’s second home country. The Finnish school in Tartu was looking for a Finnish teacher, so we moved to Tartu. Now I teach Finnish language at Tartu Finnish School and Estonian as a foreign language at Tartu International School. My passion is to teach languages through moving and active games, and in the future I hope to use outside learning methods as much as possible. When I have free time, I go for a run, but as I have five children and a full-time job, I don’t have much time for running; when I do get to go for a run, I usually go for longer than normal. 

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.