Six-year-old Amelia Richmond helped herself to the "I Love Teachers" placard from the stack in Whanganui's Majestic Square.
Her mother Rachel Richmond said there was no coercion from her or any of the other teachers gathered in the square on Wednesday morning.
"She saw everyone gathering up signs and chose that one for herself," Richmond said.
Richmond was one of more than 400 local educators and supporters joining nationwide strike action on Wednesday.
For the first time unions representing both primary and secondary teachers - the Post-Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) and the NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) joined forces for a one-day strike demanding better pay and working conditions.
Brunswick School principal Jane Corcoran kicked off the Whanganui rally by stating that teachers are also "parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles" wanting to fight for children's education.
"Education deserves better, education needs better," she said.
Protesters split into two groups and headed in opposite directions along Victoria Ave shouting slogans such as "More teachers, better pay, that is why we're here today" and "Schools just want to have funds."
Teaching student Maree Squire was marching with her two teenaged children who had both made the choice to spend their day off supporting the strike.
"Teachers really deserve our support," said 13-year-old Caleb.
"I really appreciate what they do and they should be well-paid."
Squire, who already has a degree is completing her graduate diploma in teaching this year.
"I am an experienced teaching assistant and I have another child with special needs, so I have a good range of skills and experience.
"It is financially tough, but I do want to join the profession."
There were a significant number of mature students in her cohort she said.
"Not many young people seem to be attracted to the profession which is a shame."
Demetrius Edwards said he is not a teacher and has no school-aged children but joined the protest to show his support.
"Members of my whānau are teachers and I know they are passionate about their work but they are feeling a lot of strain.
"They should be getting whatever they need from the Government."
When marchers returned to Majestic Square, they heard from NZEI representative Halim Sheridan who said he is disappointed in Education Minister Chris Hipkins, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
"We have been under attack from the previous Government for 10 years," he said.
"What the current Government is offering is nowhere near enough to attract new people to the profession or to retain the people we have."
Sheridan spoke of classrooms in primary schools being overcrowded with up to 40 students and the lack of allocation for non-contact hours impinging on teachers' personal lives leaving little time to "be a human."
"The crisis starts with the unwillingness of people to sign up for this vital role in society," he said.
"Those that remain are under pressure, under-resourced and underpaid."
PPTA representative for Manawatu and Whanganui Rob Torr followed Sheridan's speech by saying how wonderful it was to see primary, secondary, Whenuakura and area school staff gathered together.
"We have talked and talked and yes, talked some more and this Government has just not listened.
"We have explained our issues, we have provided data and factual back-up for the reasons for our requests and all we get is, 'There is no more money in the fiscal envelope."
A large contingent of the group then travelled in convoy to Palmerston North to join a larger rally there while some continued their strike action at various locations in Whanganui.