Whareama School teaching principal Darren Kerr has won New Zealand's only National Excellence Award for primary teaching in 2021.
It was Kerr's first nomination for the award in his 24 years of teaching.
"You hear stories from parents about how well the school is going, but until you hear it from a national organisation it reinforces that what you're doing, you seem to be doing okay at," Kerr said.
Before teaching, he had several occupations but "couldn't find my niche".
"I remember working at a TAB I was managing in Stokes Valley and sort-of thought there must be a better challenge to life.
"Then a school bus pulled up to the pool and all the kids were running and tearing around and I thought, that looks like a good challenge and I've always enjoyed being around kids."
He has been principal of Whareama School, 38km east of Masterton, for nearly 10 years.
"What I enjoy most about teaching is those lightbulb moments with the kids, where you see that they have clicked onto a concept or theory or you've taught them in the right way that's engaged them and made them understand."
The rural school has 55 children where Kerr is teaching both the syllabus and life skills.
"I'm a fan of project-based learning - kids learning things and using that learning for a purpose.
"I don't believe there's a purpose of learning something if you're not going to use the knowledge that you've gained, so learning just to fill knowledge or skill space is not relevant."
While children needed to learn basic subjects at school he said they also needed to learn "learner qualities".
"So that they're able to be self-managers and creative and reflective and collaborate with other people because those are the skills that you need not only through school but through the whole of your life.
"We don't have those skills naturally so they actually have to be taught, just like reading and writing and maths."
While he may have been awarded the prestigious prize, Kerr said there were plenty of great teachers in New Zealand.
"I'm just one of the lucky ones who have been able to be recognised for it.
"But there's a heap of people doing a heap of amazing stuff out there."