Even when acknowledged on a national level, John Paul College teacher Paulene Walsh is still helping others.
Walsh was given a National Excellence in Teaching Award at a ceremony in Wellington this evening for her work in the school and community.
She was originally nominated for a regional award by the community and won that, making her a national award finalist.
Walsh teaches English, religious studies and is also the learning support co-ordinator working with students with extra needs. She also works in community education.
"I was delighted to win, especially for my school and my community and for my learning support team. They are the unsung heroes of the education system."
Walsh won $5000 for her work to be used on any project she wanted and she planned to put it right back into community education.
"I do that outside of school hours and inside as well, working with positive parenting.
"My money will go back into my community in whatever way I can.
"This is not just for John Paul College, it's for Rotorua."
Walsh has about 250 children of all ages on the learning support books and works with a team of teacher aides as well as in the community.
"I support students to navigate their way through school so their need won't define them, what defines them is what they do about it."
She said she loved her role.
"I feel like I can make a difference to everybody and the gift of education is the greatest of all.
"It's a lovely role and I'm very proud of Rotorua. We've come of age."
Walsh was one of five award recipients selected from more than 200 nominations. The recipients were honoured for their inspiring and innovative contributions to teaching.
ASG National Excellence in Teaching Awards chairman Allen Blewitt said the recipients were all outstanding educational role models.
"These inspiring teachers reflect what it means to be a life-long learner. They listen, inspire and work alongside students to achieve outstanding outcomes.
"Each of today's recipients understands the responsibility that comes with their role as an educator; equipping our young people to become confident, competent and resilient."
Since their inception in 1994, the awards have contributed more than $1 million in professional development grants to teachers in Australia and New Zealand.
The other recipients were Auckland's Howick Intermediate School principal Yolande Franke; Ricky Chan from Freyberg High School, Palmerston North; Delwyn Kruyff from Albany Primary School in Auckland; and Bruce Rodger from Avonhead School in Christchurch.