For more than 30 years Dr Kathleen Irwin has been engaged in Māori education research.
Her commitment was recognised in the New Year Honours where she was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori education.
"It is humbling to be honoured in this way.
"I am deeply grateful to my parents and grandparents for the legacy they created.
"I love following in their footsteps, albeit with much smaller footprints."
Dr Irwin, from Ōtaki Beach, said during secondary school she was a child who got comments on her reports which said 'talks too much, doesn't do her homework and could do better' but she loved debating, speech-making and performing.
"Turns out those hobbies helped me develop advocacy, research and public speaking skills, which have been essential in my work.
Her research contribution has been made as a junior lecturer through to professor across five institutions: Massey University, Victoria University of Wellington, Christchurch College of Education, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi between1981 and 2008.
She founded and led He Pārekereke — Institute for Research and Development in Maori Education, in 1991.
Dr Irwin has been a keynote speaker for many years including addressing the first United Nations forum on indigenous issues.
She has been on various education boards and was an editor of Feminist Voices as well as Toi Māori: worlds of Māori women.
While she has achieved a lot in her field of work, it was her PhD that gave her a lot of satisfaction, and which earned her the Ngārimu Victoria Cross and the 28th Māori Battalion post-graduate scholarship.
"I taught for 20 years before I finished it.
"Our culture calls us to be our best — to climb to the highest peaks — and so I did.
"I dedicate it now to my mother who passed away when I was a teenager.
"A teacher herself, it was my gift to her to show that I had 'tried to do better'."