Getting out of the classroom for real world experience is a key part of Sara Thorburn's teaching style.
Mrs Thorburn, a teacher at Matahui Road School, was nominated for the Bay of Plenty Times' awesome teacher series by her colleague Julie Hayes.
Standing at the front of the class writing on a blackboard is not Mrs Thorburn's style.
Instead, she spends much of her time taking part in lessons with her seven young students and learning alongside them.
Music class is a perfect example of this. The class starts off with a chorus of "doh re mes" as teacher Chrissy Rosoman plays the keyboard.
Mingled in among the voices of the 7 and 8-year-olds is that of Mrs Thorburn, who also whips out a guitar when it is time for the children's instrument lesson.
The guitar was the student's choice of instrument this term, she says.
"They are learning to play a song they wrote about mangroves, a subject they have been studying this term."
The students then take their song to a range of different sized xylophones. Mrs Thorburn helps the students keep the beat while each plays their different solo part, but otherwise lets them do their thing.
Teaching is all about discovering each child's strength and weaknesses, Mrs Thorburn says. "It's about understanding the child and understanding how we can help them. It's also about working together with families and celebrating successes.
"Everyone is good at different things. Some are really musical, others are good at maths."
Being at the small private school gives Mrs Thorburn the opportunity to take a more hands off approach to teaching. The students lead a lot of what is learned in class.
"One day we were on a native walk. The kids spied cicada shells so they gathered heaps of them, went into the class and put the projector on and looked up cicadas. That's what they were interested in and what they wanted to know. It's great we can do that here and not stick to a rigid structure."