STAFF

Marina Mitchenko

My name is Marina. I graduated from Saint-Petersburg Hertsen State Pedagogical University as a primary school teacher. After graduation I was working in this capacity for 9 years in Russia. I conducted lessons of Russian language and literacy , maths, science, PE, art and craft, outdoors games and different activities.

I have been living in the UK for more than 7 years and during this time I helped my elder daughter to prepare for the Russian language exams: GCSE and A –levels which she passed with top marks. I am well familiar with all aspects of bringing up bilingual child.

Here, in Solnyshko school I am teaching expanding vocabulary and language development for different age group.

I'm striving to make our lessons interesting, entertaining, inclusive of various forms of learning: telling stories, role-playing, sensory games, funny rhymes and crafts.

The children enjoy studying here, they perform at their best and I am very pleased with their progress and enthusiasm.

Olga Efremova (PhD in Chemistry, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry)

I came from Novosibirsk (Russia), where I studied for a Chemistry degree at the Novosibirsk State University. After graduation with distinction and a medal from the Russian Ministry for Science and Education for the best student scientific work, I did a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry, for which I undertook research in three different countries. Many years I worked as a Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Hull, where apart from teaching I also lead research in the area of materials chemistry trying to deliver new innovations for healthcare, such as new biomedical sensors and new technologies for cancer treatment.

I have a strong passion for natural sciences and believe that a love for the sciences should be developed from an early age. I show my passion to children during science lessons at the Russian Language school, where I demonstrate that everyday things are in fact interesting objects for research and experiments.

Anna Ponomareva

I was born and grew up in St. Petersburg. Graduated from St. Petersburg State University and then I worked as a teacher. I also worked in a kids summer camp in USA. I moved to UK in 2007 and have been teaching Russian Language at “Solnyshko” since 2013.

My classes are designed to help children to learn/improve reading and writing abilities, constantly expanding their vocabulary and using correct sentence structure. Other aims are: correct use of words and sentence structure as well as the introduction of classic children's literature in Russian language and developing an interest in Russian culture and national traditions.

Humai Verdiyeva

My name is Humai. I graduated from Lugansk National University named after Taras Shevchenko and obtained a bachelor degree in education as a Primary School Teacher. I’ve had worked in a private school “Dunya” (adopted IB system, in particular PYP) in Azerbaijan, Baku for 4 years, as a primary school teacher, specialised in teaching of Russian-speaking children.

For me, the learning process is not only teaching the subject as such, but also interacting with children. This is an opportunity to unleash their potential, to understand the inclinations and interests of students. An important part of successful schooling is the solid language base. Learning through an active communication and involving the child in this process is my key objective.

Currently, I teach Russian at the school "Solnyshko". I am glad to be a part of our creative and friendly team that helps child master the Russian language in a form that is also fascinating for him/her.

Tatiana Staskova

My name is Tatiana. I was born in Riga, Latvia. From an early age I loved children and playing school with my younger brother and cousin. Even back then, I dreamt of becoming a teacher when I grew up. Time passed, I grew up and moved to England. In 2011, I had my amazing little girl, Sasha. After her birth, I realised once again, that I certainly wanted to work with children.

I attended a Childminder Induction Course and received a certificate approved by Warrington Borough Council and then worked as Childminder with Russian speaking kids. I'm successful finished "Teacher Assistant" course and working as a volunteer Teaching Assistant at the Latchford St James CofE Primary School.

I joined the play group “Solnyshko” in August 2012 when I brought my daughter. I was very keen on her spending time with other Russian speaking children. Two-weeks later, I joined “Solnyshko” team as a volunteer secretary. Following the school opening in 2013 I became the youngest group teacher and since then have been teaching children aged 3-4 years old. I can certainly say my dream to work with children has come true! I love communicating with children, share knowledge with them and monitor their progress. My classes involve lots of games, crafts and poetry. My aims are: children speech and writing development, vocabulary expansion and preparation for higher level groups.

Valeriya Hall

I am from the far eastern capital of Russia, Vladivostok. I have a pedagogical education which I got from the Pedagogical State University in Russia.

My length of teaching experience with children and students is 23 years. 10 years at a Russian children’s junior school as a track and field athletics training coach, 11 years as a teacher in the Far Eastern State University and College in Vladivostok City and 2 years in the Russian language school “Solnyshko” in Warrington. In “Solnyshkoo” I work as a rhythmic teacher.

Professional skills: love of working with children, knowledge of pedagogical theory and basic psychology, pedagogical teaching techniques, pedagogical creativity, excellent communication skills, high standard of discipline, organisation skills, highly responsible

My philosophy is very simple: in a healthy body – healthy spirit: Mental and physical development are interdependent. This is very important for children in nursery school, primary school and secondary school. I know how to make a happy atmosphere in my lessons by using games, sports and dance exercises to achieve an individual and harmonious development of the child.

I love to work in “Solnyshko” because there is a lovely atmosphere and i work in a team of like-minded, highly qualified teachers who have a rich experience of working with children.

Vera McKenna

I’ve been with "Solnyshko" from the earliest days and I'm a member of the school committee. I'm proud of my work, we have a wonderful team and the best pupils! For me working in our school is my favourite work and a rewarding hobby.

I have a higher pedagogical education in the speciality of "Russian Language and Literature". In December 2020, I completed the advanced course "Features of teaching Russian as a second language to children." For many years I've worked in a school environment, including experience of social work for people with disabilities. I also have a librarian diploma and work experience in public and school libraries. Including winning an award in "The Best Librarian of the Year".

In "Solnyshko" I teach the speech development for groups 4, 5 and 8. I'm also the school librarian, photographer, webmaster and web administrator of our school web-site and Facebook page.

Snezhana White

My name is Snezhana White and I am headteacher of Russian Language School Solnyshko. I also teach topic/science to children age 7-11 years in the school from 2015.

I am a native Russian speaker and was raised in Murmansk, Russia. I have spent many years working in the British school leadership team as a member of governor board and actively engaged in the school staff development. I regularly undertake professional training development in the UK and Russia to increase my skills and industry engagement. I have a bachelor degree in economics and finance (Russia), and a bachelor degree in the creative industry (UK). I have been living in the UK for the last 16 years and bringing up 2 beautiful bilingual (Russian/English) children.

I embrace Russian culture and Russian heritage. My lessons in topic/science are taught in the Russian language to the Russian and bilingual children. Those lessons are fun, full of knowledge and extremely engaging. Lessons allow the use of the practical aspects of the language and based on the British Curriculum. Those lessons will help your child to develop critical thinking skills, enable your child to participate in the grown-up conversations and increase overall confidence. Topic/Science will cover subjects like biology, chemistry, physics, geography, history, astronomy appropriate for children's age.

Olga Davis


I was born and grew up in Saint Petersburg. Now I live in Liverpool. In 2021, I received a first-class Master’s degree in Translation and Interpreting Studies from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester. After graduation, I decided to devote more time to teaching Russian language, including Russian as MFL in mainstream British schools.

At Solnyshko School, I teach Russian to adult learners as well as GCSE Russian preparation classes to 11-13 y. o. children. Lessons include speaking practice in a role-play and game formats; reading, listening, and checking comprehension; writing and grammar consolidation. In our GCSE classes, we build on the essential language skills children progressively develop in their junior grades at Solnyshko.

I also taught Public Speaking at Solnyshko, and I hope to resume these lessons when we return to classroom setting. Our lessons help children to learn the art of good and confident speaking in Russian language. Of course, these skills will be useful regardless of what language students will be presenting in future. In my work with children, I use my personal experience of presenting at conferences and different Public speaking techniques. I am taking a special interest in this subject. Having worked over five years as Russian Language Editor at Discovery Channel, I use my experience of dealing with translated texts and voice artists during voiceover and dubbing of TV programmes to develop children’s confidence in using grammatically correct written and oral language, as well as speaking in front of an audience.

Yuliya Crane (PhD, chair and founder of Worrington Russian Language School "Solnyshko")


After living in the UK for over 20 years, I have witnessed all the changes the country went through since last century, including the rapid increase of Russian speaking population. Unfortunately, I had also noticed a profound lack of support for upbringing of bilingual children and development of their understanding of heritage and feeling of "belonging".

I've taught in university and organised professional training, while working as a consultant, so when my children were born, I had naturally started to seriously consider my options for their early education and development. I've attended a phenomenal amount of different types of early development classes for children not just in the UK, but also back home (while on maternity leave with my second child), discussed ideas with teachers, studied variety of techniques and methodologies, approaches to language development and research papers on bilingualism. I had discovered a vacuum of quality education for bilingual children (Russian and English) in the north of the UK. For me it was important not just to teach the language as such, but create Russian speaking environment which will help in understanding culture, heritage, traditions and in self-identification through seeing other kids and adults speaking the same languages (understanding that you are not alone), developing friendships and being part of the "community". Therefore, an idea was born to create a Russian speaking parent and toddler group "Solnyshko" in my local Sure Start Centre, where I could teach and develop my kids as part of the group/community together with some other amazing mothers. At that point my kids were 3.5 year old and 9 month old and really enjoyed the group. After a year, a decision was made to open supplementary education school to teach Russian language and culture. Several talented teachers have joined the school over the years.

In 2019 my family and I temporarily moved to Saudi Arabia, where I've set up Russian speaking parent and toddler group for my 3rd children ( 20 months old at the time).

Solnyshko school keeps growing and developing and I currently predominantly deal with administration, strategic growth and educational content of the school. However, sometimes I enjoy substituting teachers, as required, and teach kids. This gives a powerful buzz and a reminder of the reason the school was created - to see the light in kids eyes, observing their belief in themselves growing and celebrating their achievements with them!

I strongly believe that one of the best presents parents can give to their children, is the present of being bilingual and polycultured!