In his 21 years at Ballarat Grammar, former principal Stephen Higgs helped to build links across the city, the country, and internationally, which continues to expose students to all sorts of cultures.
For his services to education, he's been awarded an Order of Australia Medal - a "pleasant surprise", he said.
Mr Higgs said he was initially a geologist, but after a downturn in Western Australia, he said found volunteering with Scouts rewarding.
"I'd been enjoying working with young people in that context, so I moved into teaching - then 20 years at Melbourne Grammar, with a few years teaching in England and Zimbabwe, which is where my wife comes from," he said.
He moved to Ballarat and became headmaster of Ballarat Grammar in 1995, after his experiences with boarding schools.
Awarded the National Excellence in Teaching award in 2012, as well as the Senior Educator Award from the Australian College of Educators, the thing he is most proud of is the links he forged - he's a life member of the International Round Square organisation, which connects schools across the world.
"I had 21 years at Ballarat Grammar, 21 very happy years, and in that space of time we were able to achieve a lot, not just for the school itself but for the wider Ballarat community, and at a global level," he said.
"I suppose, in general, it's the way we were able to broaden horizons for young people and staff at the school, and connect with the communities locally and across Australia and internationally."
This included establishing an exchange program with remote Indigenous communities, and welcoming refugee families to the school, he said.
As well, he helped to create Ballarat Grammar's Melbourne campus, which provides a taste of city life for students.
He said about 30 regional schools now use the facilities.
The school's farm campus at Mount Rowan, where year four students learn about animals and the environment, is another highlight, he added.
"Grammar was kind enough to acknowledge my wife Sue and named the building at the farm campus we developed (after us) - it's a terrific thing for young people," he said.
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"I was talking to one of the parents just a couple of days ago, his daughter had gone there at the start of the year really afraid of going anywhere near farm animals, and at the end of the year she was clutching the chooks and patting the sheep - over the course of the year had been developing a sense of connection with the lambs, which is really valuable outcome."
This sense of connection to the outside world and the environment also created a focus on sustainability at the school.
"Early on in the piece, following an environmental (plan) - we had solar panels, wind power, this is going back 15 years or so now, before it was accepted practice," he said.
"My wife and I live these days off the grid on a small farm near She Oaks, we drive around in a car powered by the sun, I'm still experimenting.
"She's very proud (of the award), and our children all had to do penance by attending school where their old man was the head, so they were contributors in a sense too."
Mr Higgs is now the executive general manager of the Victorian Ecumenical System of Schools, helping to lobby on behalf of independent schools.
He had some important advice for teachers just beginning their careers.
"I think the most important thing you can do as a teacher really, and a leader, is to build trust," he said.
"That's what lies at the heart of what we're doing, and all of what we've been able to achieve at Grammar and what's being recognised with this award - it's because we've been able to develop trust in one another as a group of staff and that's a really important basis for any leadership, I think, in school and elsewhere.
"It says something of the schools in Ballarat, the tremendous educational reputation, quite rightly it's a reflection of that."
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