Stawell Primary School principal Robyn Jones was left "speechless" after receiving a surprise award at a regional education presentation night recently.
Mrs Jones and other principals within the region recently attended a Wimmera Principals Association celebration evening, the first in two years.
The "strong, caring network" of principals was formed to look after each other given the nature of living in a rural area.
"It is a good time to get together to celebrate the achievements of one another," Mrs Jones said.
Mrs Jones was among several recipients of service awards, receiving a plaque for 15 years of service as a principal.
"I was very proud of that. You certainly don't work for recognition but it is good to recognise the support between prins (principals) in the region," she said.
However, it was the awards that followed the service presentations that took Mrs Jones by surprise.
She was one of three recipients of the Brendan Ryan Wimmera Education Excellence Award.
The award recognises the contributions of principals in the region to their community as well as to other schools and principals in the region.
It is named after Wimmera senior education improvement leader Brendan Ryan who is highly regarded and plays a key role in representing Wimmera principals in Melbourne.
"I was speechless which doesn't happen very often. I was a bit teary when I received it," Mrs Jones said.
"I was chuffed enough getting the 15 year award, but to have been nominated and to receive and award like that was an honour.
"I lead the Stawell and surrounding schools team, working closely with them. I have a good team around me, so this award is more about that team than me."
Notes read out prior to the presentation of Mrs Jones' award described her as a "stalwart" and "advocate" of education.
"She understands education and is passionate about giving students an opportunity to learn and grow," it read.
"If you had to describe her personality it is compassionate, caring and always willing to help."
Mrs Jones said the award was a significant milestone for female leadership in education in the region.
"It has been a tough struggle for women in leadership, it hasn't always been an equal playing field in the education department in the 35 years I have been teaching for," she said.
"It is certainly a lot different now which is great. There is now an equal playing field which makes a big difference - there are equal opportunities for women to get positions of leadership.
"There are a lot of prins around here that are female aso it means a lot for a lot of us."
Mrs Jones said she her passion for education is as strong as ever.
"We have been working hard with our PRIDE program to try and make the students the best they can be," she said.
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