Grandfather and kindergarten teacher Patrick Boyle has made a big impact in early childhood education since he started in 2005.
Mr Boyle, from Hamurana, recently won a top national award - the National Excellence in Teaching (NEiTA) Education Programs Teaching Award - presented annually to five teachers across the country.
The award followed the NEiTA regional awards announced in Parliament in May.
Mr Boyle said what helped him win the award was his experiments with project-based learning, which he used at all three kindergartens he worked at in Auckland, Rotorua and Tokoroa.
"As part of the application process we had to do a written assignment."
He said he chose to write his assignment on a project-based experiment he had triggered in Auckland.
"It was about an old folk song The Fox and the Goose.
"It started with me singing the song to the children and before you knew it everyone wanted to learn the words."
He said because the children were interested and wanted to know more, he left it up to them to lead a project. He said the children decided they wanted to make a play out of the song and they spent weeks learning about the animals, before making the detailed play about the song.
"This is typical of project work. The children run it and drive it. What grows out of it is a groundswell of child interest."
The NEiTA said they were impressed with Mr Boyle's teaching philosophy.
"The judges felt that Patrick has developed many insights into the way children engage with their world and in so doing brings many years of wisdom and creativity to his relatively unique position as a mature male early childhood educator."
Mr Boyle received his award at Clyde Street Kindergarten in Tokoroa, where he is on a six-month contract following a stint at the Rotorua East Kindergarten.
He was presented with a crystal apple and a $5000 professional development grant.
Mr Boyle said he would put the money towards an internet resource profiling all his projects, which could be added to by other teachers around the country.
There were 600 nominations for the five top teaching awards, which recognised excellence in early childhood, primary, intermediate and high school level teaching.
Mr Boyle began his training in early childhood teaching in 2005, influenced by the birth of his two grandchildren after 30 years in the printing industry. He is part of a rare breed in his new profession, with males comprising only 1 per cent of early childhood teachers in New Zealand.