The nomination came as a surprise to Rachel Smith, but even greater was the shock of winning an excellence in family daycare award.
The Wagga-based owner and operator of Wagga Helping Hands took out this year's regional educator award.
"Someone had to nominate me, then I was sent some questions to answer on professionalism and community engagement," Ms Smith said.
"I didn't think I had a chance of winning."
Though she asked all her employees, friends and family, Ms Smith is still in the dark on who nominated her.
"They all said 'no, it wasn't me'," she said.
"I'm not sure I need to know who it was though."
The award, she said, is likely in recognition of the childcare's community focus.
She and the students have regularly cooked and delivered meals for the struggling members of their Mount Austin neighbourhood.
The award also acknowledges the difficult year Ms Smith has had in 2020.
Having spent the past six months of maternity leave meant she has stood in the background of her business while a relief teacher took the helm.
But since the business is run out of her Mount Austin home, Ms Smith still had to be actively involved with the day-to-day running.
Recovering from a challenging birth was not made easy by the constant flow of little people in her home. At any given time, up to seven children can be in the centre.
But then add to that, the complication of running the childcare centre during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We still had all our kids coming [in the lockdown], but the biggest part was trying to juggle a new baby and a business while being on leave," Ms Smith said.
"It wasn't the easiest time."
Owning a childcare centre was not Ms Smith's original career plan.
But since beginning the enterprise three years ago, she said she and her husband "couldn't think of anything we'd want to do more".
"I was a nanny back then, and I decided I didn't want to keep living in other people's houses, I wanted to stay in my own," she said.
"I was also a house cleaner but I ended up with appendicitis and couldn't push the vacuum anymore so I had to look at other avenues for work."
On the mend from her operation, Ms Smith began looking into whether she could begin working in childcare.
But, unwilling to go into a centre, Ms Smith decided to transform her home into the business.
"Within six months of starting it, we wondered why we hadn't done it sooner," Ms Smith said.