Maureen Hartung remembers trying to navigate the school system with her two children Katherine and Michael, now in their 30s.
When she voiced her concerns about certain issues, tried to make change or asked too many questions, more than one principal suggested "if you don't like how my school works why don't you go set up your own".
So that is exactly what she did.
Ms Hartung has run the Blue Gum Community School for the past 18 years – providing a unique educational experience for children across the ACT.
Catering to more than 200 students from playgroup to Year 10, the school is independent and based on the Reggio Emilia model of child-centredness.
Ms Hartung has been recognised for her service to education and to the community, with her citation listing a number of voluntary and expert appointment positions including membership of the Professional Experience Committee of the ACT Teacher Quality Institute and a long association with the North Canberra Community Council, Hackett Community Association and National Disability Service.
As Blue Gum continues to grow, Ms Hartung said she was interested in exploring the provision of high quality education for students who felt alienated in mainstream settings as well as independent education for students with a disability.
"I remain passionate about providing an opportunity for learning based on authentic, real-life encounters – learning that is meaningful for students and learning that addresses every child's individual strengths and challenges both academically and socially."
Ms Hartung said her school attracted very dedicated staff, who worked hard to encourage all aspects of a child's development.
"Our approach requires educators to be true professionals. In running our school it is essential to have happy staff, but anyone expecting a soft option is in for rude shock, it is very hard work. Educators that come to us and continue with us are people who are passionate about making a difference with students. And the attraction is coming to work with students in a different way."
Describing herself as uncomfortable with the concept of public accolades and formal acknowledgement, Ms Hartung said she was accepting the honour on behalf of her school community.
"I think it will be an interesting surprise for the school community. I hope they will feel a sense of joy and pride in the achievement of everything we have achieved over the years."