For retired Rotorua principal Tony Pope his career was not a job - it was a calling.

It is because of that dedication and desire to go above and beyond that Mr Pope has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Mr Pope was principal at Selwyn Primary School for 20 years before retiring in 2011.

During this time, Mr Pope implemented a number of initiatives to ensure the school facilities were available to the whole community, including the construction of a school hall with the intention of it doubling as a community hall. It was through these initiatives that Selwyn Primary School turned into a community hub.

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The school has seen its predominantly Maori population make significant achievements in English language and literacy and Mr Pope has given his time outside school hours to act as a mediator and visit the homes of his students to address problems relating to the children's wellbeing.

He served as secretary of the Rotorua Principals Association for 18 years and was made a life member in 2013.

Mr Pope worked for the Ministry of Education in Rotorua as a special education adviser in behaviour until his retirement from education last year.

He has since devoted his time to art, with many of his murals now adorning schools across the Rotorua area, and has worked with schools and students on art programmes and exhibits.

Mr Pope told the Rotorua Daily Post the honour came out of the blue. "Without sounding cliche, I am quite humbled but very excited by the honour. It was certainly unexpected."

He said going into education was somewhat of a family business. "My dad was a school principal and both my mum and sister were teachers so when it came to me I saw how much they enjoyed it and thought I'd give it a go too.

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"Again, without being too cliche, I think going into education needs to be seen as a job versus vocation - it was always a vocation for me and I saw it that the more I gave, the more I got back. I spent 20 years at Selwyn and the school was supported tremendously by its wonderful community. The community provided me with great memories and I hope that was reciprocal."