A headteacher of a special school in Northamptonshire was among those who have been recognised in the New Year’s Honours list from elsewhere in the county.
A former Kettering headteacher and an ex-Rowell Fair bailiff also receive gongs.
Debbie Withers, who retired in the summer after 23 years at Wren Spinney Special School in Westover Road, Kettering, has been made an MBE for services to education.
Mrs Withers, who was headteacher from 2000 until her retirement, said: “It was complete disbelief when I got the letter. I read it and I thought, ‘This has got to be a joke’.
“To get recognition for something you do and enjoy is just a double bonus. It still doesn’t feel real.
“I hadn’t imagined I would ever be in a situation where I would ever be considered. The whole thing has just felt surreal and such an honour.
She also said the award was good for Wren Spinney itself, adding: “It gives people the chance to learn about the school and what we are trying to do with young people who have special educational needs.”
Also made an MBE is Beverley Williams, from Thrapston, who founded the Social Worker of the Year Awards in 2006 and is honoured for services to the social work profession in England.
Herself a practising social worker, Ms Williams has overseen the subsequent growth of the awards and was able to form the registered charity Social Work Awards in 2011.
She said: “I didn’t expect it in a million years. When I read the letter I couldn’t stop screaming. I don’t think it’s really sunk in.
“It’s good to be recognised and receive an honour for something I love doing and something that’s very close to my heart.”
She set up the awards to pay tribute to social workers, plugging a gap to give them recognition for the work they do – and, from relatively humble beginnings less than a decade ago, it has since grown into a ceremony which this year attracted 350 guests, including the education secretary Nicky Morgan.
It has also spread to the other side of the world, with a similar concept having been introduced in Australia.
Meanwhile, a British Empire Medal (BEM) has been awarded to Robert Denton for services to the community in Rothwell. He spent 22 years as bailiff of the Rowell Fair Society after 12 years as deputy.
Mr Denton was also a district councillor for 16 years, as well as a special constable between 1960 and 1994. He spent 42 years teaching, including 23 years as headmaster of Walgrave Primary School.
He said: “When the letter passed through the letterbox you think ‘Oh my goodness’.
“I am thrilled to bits to get the honour but you do feel very humbled by it – there are other people in the area who put as much into the community as I do.
“But I do feel proud to be appreciated. It’s a lovely feeling.”
A BEM is also given to Chris Boucher, of Wellingborough, for services to the blind and partially sighted. Mr Boucher has spent 56 years volunteering with the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
He currently spends most of his time with Wellingborough and District Talking Newspaper for the Blind, acting as both a reader and recording engineer for two decades as well as being the group’s chairman.
Asked how he felt when he received the news, Mr Boucher said: “I was overwhelmed. I never thought I would get anything like that. It came completely out of the blue.
“It’s very nice, very rewarding, to have the work recognised.”