Lia Tuffield thought she was the target of an April Fool's Day prank when she received notification that she was to become a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Mrs Tuffield, who is receiving the honour for services to special education, said she was humbled to be selected.

"A lot of the credit for my work has to go to the amazing people I have worked with and my family for their unrelenting support."

A teacher at Rutherford Junior High, Mrs Tuffield has worked for more than 41 years in the education sector.


After working as a principal for 15 years, and an assistant and deputy principal for six years at Maxwell, Keith St and Waverley schools, she began working at Arahunga Special School.

Through Arahunga, she developed and implemented an outreach service for children with special education needs.

The service gave specialist training and development to regular classroom teachers, and benefited students by giving them access to additional support in a regular classroom setting.

"We started it with an idea and a shoestring," said Mrs Tuffield.

"I have to give much of the credit to former Arahunga principal James Abernathy for his willingness and support."

The impact of the project has been widespread with 20 teachers now working across 40 schools.

The outreach service is considered to be a model project that has served to inform more integrated special education services and projects in other districts and regions.

Mrs Tuffield has also contributed her significant experience and expertise in her role as a limited statutory manager, helping a number of schools facilitate successful change management processes, and has contributed her expertise at the national level in her role as a senior adviser at the Ministry of Education.