Tauranga businesswoman Frances Denz says she could not believe it when she was announced Metlife Senior New Zealander of the Year.

The Otumoetai resident was honoured in this year's New Zealander of the Year awards in an awards ceremony in Auckland last night.

Ms Denz told the Bay of Plenty times her win was "absolutely amazing".

"I couldn't believe it, it was an incredible evening.''

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Ms Denz has spent forty years developing innovative teaching practices and learning experiences for those that many would have considered 'unteachable', and has given thousands of people the skills and confidence to start their own businesses or find gainful employment.

Ms Denz has helped inspire hope for her students, who have ranged from the most traumatised to those with a history of drug dependency, from refugees to those who are disabled.

Earlier this year Ms Denz was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business, and in October was awarded the prestigious Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award by the Minister of Tertiary Education.