A primary teacher who committed benefit fraud worth more than $73,000 has been allowed to keep her job.

A Teachers Council ruling says the woman - whose identity has been kept secret - was sentenced on 17 charges related to defrauding the Ministry of Social Development.

The mother of three school-aged children admitted unlawfully receiving benefits and extra allowances while working as a teacher between 2003 to 2008.

She was sentenced to 400 hours of community work and six months of community detention. She has been ordered to repay the debt in weekly instalments of $100 over about 14 years.

Members of the council's disciplinary tribunal found the woman's offending "sustained, deliberate dishonesty of the highest order".

They initially thought the only option was to deregister her. After listening "with great care" to her evidence they let her keep her job.

The tribunal concluded the teacher had pleaded guilty and made strenuous efforts to fulfil her sentence requirements.

It said her dysfunctional background helped explain why she may have been less aware than others of the seriousness of her offending.

Her father, mother and siblings had been dependent on the state and some relatives had dealt in or been involved with drugs.

The teacher described herself as a passionate worker who was "very embarrassed, ashamed and remorseful".

She described having her career on the line as "the most daunting experienced" in her life.

Her principal gave evidence in support of her.

The tribunal said fraud cases were among the most difficult to deliberate over. They labelled the teacher's behaviour as serious misconduct. She has been censured and will be mentored.

Her case will be recorded on the teaching register and she will have to explain it to future employers. She must also continue repaying the money.

Teachers' Council director Peter Lind said the teacher was appealing against the ruling.

The Ministry of Social Development's acting head of fraud, Wendy Beban, said the teacher was illegally claiming a benefit while working and "deliberately tried to cheat the system by falsifying documents and being dishonest with staff".

Beban said a tenth of 1 per cent of the total spend on benefits and superannuation involved fraud.

The ministry has 95 fraud investigators and has a 90-95 per cent success rate in its prosecutions.