Whanganui educator Chic McConkey says she is not entirely surprised to learn she has received an award from the New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI Te Riu Roa).
The education union held its annual conference in Rotorua last week where a number of awards were announced.
Ms McConkey worked as a teacher aide at Gonville School for 36 years until she retired earlier this year.
As current secretary for the Whanganui branch of NZEI she said the local membership had managed to keep her nomination secret and even family members were aware of it and did not give the game away.
"Someone at NZEI let it slip that I was likely to get an award, and I'm very honoured, although I feel bad for the local members who worked so hard to keep it under wraps," she said.
Ms McConkey is one of five associate education staff from around New Zealand to receive an award in recognition of their work for NZEI as well as the quality public education they provide in their communities.
NZEI president Louise Green said Ms McConkey had always been "a passionate lobbyist and organiser of activities".
She said the awards were recognition for the high regard in which the members were held and the excellent relationships they had built with colleagues, NZEI Te Riu Roa members and other members of the education community.
Taranaki Maori resource teacher Tiri Bailey was made a Fellow of NZEI Te Riu Roa at the awards for her "passionate advocacy and support" of NZEI members.
"It has always been her strength to bring people on board with her to support educational initiatives, and she is renowned for her gentle ways in sharing tikanga Maori and why a Maori voice needs to be heard," said Ms Green.
Mrs Bailey said she felt both humbled and proud to receive the award and have her work recognised.
"It's about building relationships and maintaining them," she says.
"I also try to adhere to the korero of Te Whiti and Tohu, 'Kia tau te rangimarie'".
Mrs Bailey, who has iwi links with Te Atiawa Taranaki and Ngai Tahu, wanted to pay tribute to late composer and educator Morvin Simon who, she said, had a sigificant impact on her teaching career.
Five new scholarships were announced at the NZEI conference and were awarded to ECE and support staff for study and research.