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Maria Paaver

Principal, Estonian Teacher

Dear TIS family!
I have been part of Tartu International School’s community for ten years, as a teacher, as a director of development and as a parent, and since July 2022 I am the principal of this wonderful school.
I have studied Estonian language and literature, and have a Master’s degree in education from the University of Tartu. I believe in child centered education, happy and supportive learning environment, hands-on and inquiry-based learning, eco-friendly mindset, promoting creativity and reading.
I’m very excited to work together with such a dedicated teaching team and look forward to having inspiring conversations with our students and parents.

Tiia Neuvonen

Finnish School Principal, Estonian Teacher

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. 

Kirsi Kriit

Head of Studies, PYP Coordinator, Art and English 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.

Kärt Mõttus

Grade 1 Class Teacher

I was raised in southern Estonia, by the deepest lake in Estonia, Rõuge. After graduating from secondary school, I came to Tartu in order to study to become a primary school teacher and English as a foreign language teacher. Between my studies in the university I spent a fantastic year in Norway as an au-pair. After finishing my studies I worked some years in school. When I came to Tartu International School, I understood that working with children is the thing I really love. It never gets boring, it’s always full of surprises, and one learns every day something from the little ones. I’m really glad to be a member of the Tartu International School.

Triin Simso

Grade 2 Class Teacher

I grew up in Põlva and in 2013  I moved to Tartu where I started studying at the University of Tartu. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Early Years Education and a Master’s in Education Innovation. I have always known that my life will be connected with Tartu. I think that learning process should include all different learning styles and also be fun for children. That is why teaching is my passion. I love working with children and supporting their development. TIS offers me new challenges, amazing coworkers, supportive community and this makes working here exciting. Working at TIS has definitely encouraged to follow my dreams. In my free time, I like to read and spend time with my family and friends.

Maria Harjo

Grade 3 Class Teacher

Tartu has always been my hometown. I graduated from high school in 2021, and the same year I started my studies at the University of Tartu. At the moment I am working on getting my Master’s degree in Primary School teaching, specializing in English. I have always known I am going to be a teacher. Children inspire me and working with them makes me very happy. In my free time I enjoy playing disc golf, and listening to music. It is also very important to me to spend time with my family and friends. I have Estonian as my mother tongue and English as my foreign language. I am so excited to be working at this School and to get to know all of you!

Maarika Kullamaa

Grade 4 Class Teacher, Mathematics 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.

Kadi Rätsepp 

Grade 5 Class Teacher, Sciences and PSHE Teacher

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.

Liina Maurer

Grade 6 Class Teacher, Estonian Teacher

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 7 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.

Maris Vohla

Grade 8 Class Teacher, Estonian and Technology Teacher

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.

Andreas McKeough

Grade 9 Class Teacher, History, Citizenship and Art Teacher

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. My minor subjects included history, Hungarian and sociology. 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, dj´ing, films, disc golf, watching and playing football.

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

Vesta Voltein

Music Teacher

I was born and raised in Tartu. My mother tongue is Estonian, I speak English and Russian as well. I have a Master’s degree from the Estonian Academy of Theater and Music and the University of Tartu.  In addition to the Tartu International School, I work at the 1st Music School of Tartu, the music school “Helivõlu” and the singing studio “Tähe Viis”. I have participated in Estonian singing festivals and competitions with my choirs and students of solo singing.  Several of my students are either studying or have already graduated from the Estonian Theater and Music Academy and are working as musicians. The choir or the band- let’s sing and play! Music is fun!

Hasso Paap

Physical Education Teacher

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!

Jaak-Albert Metsoja

Physics Teacher

I originally come from Tallinn and 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.

Mikko Saarivuori

Free-time Club Teacher, Club Coordinator, 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.

Liia Salum

German as a Foreign Language Teacher

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.

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.