Suzanne Hartley has won a prestigious ASG National Excellence in Teaching Award and is now competing for the national award - which comes with a whopping cash prize towards her school.
The Te Puke Primary teacher was honoured at a special school assembly on Friday for gaining the regional award. She will now be going up against other teachers from around the country for a prize of $5000 for her school, which she hoped to use to build an outdoor music zone.
To get the award, a teacher had to be nominated by someone in the community, then write an essay.
"The principal told me at the end of last year that someone had nominated me for it. I've been working on an outdoor music zone with my kids, when I saw that $5000 prize, I thought that would be cool to get for it. I talked to the principal and he said go for it."
During the Christmas holidays, Mrs Hartley worked on her essay for the prize, discussing what she did as a teacher, how she helped children with their learning, how she involved the community in their learning and how she engaged the children.
For the next round, she had to do a video interview in a creative way. Mrs Hartley enlisted the help of her students and created a question-and-answer session with puppets. She also had to write another big essay.
If she made the final cut, Mrs Hartley would be heading to Wellington in September to be presented the award by the Minister of Education at Government House.
"It would be good if the school gets the money for a music zone," Mrs Hartley said. "It's not just for me. The senior unit did an amazing job last year of creating a bike track at school, they raised the money and got it built.
"To have a music zone on the property will help cater to another of people's interests."
Mrs Hartley has been working at the school for 33 years, but did not think she did anything particularly special as a teacher to deserve the award.
"I'm not sure who nominated me and why they singled me out, I think we all work hard."
Natalie Bell from Maungaarangi Kindergarten and Whanau Centre in Tauranga was also a finalist in the early childhood education sector of the awards.
ASG National Excellence in Teaching Award CEO John Velegrinis said community recognition was very powerful and the nominated teachers should be proud of the impact they were making at the grassroots level and beyond.
"We say education is one of the most critical investments parents, families and communities can make, but we need teachers like our [award] recipients to drive this education and really invest in nation-building through our young people."