O'CONNELL Public School principal Trish Forsyth is one of two teachers from the region who will use a scholarship to help fulfil a goal of giving students the best education possible.
Thirty years after starting her teaching career and various roles later, Ms Forsyth returned home to O'Connell and became the principal of the same primary school she attended as a child.
Having grown up on Yarrabin - a well-established guesthouse located on more than 400 hectares of natural bushland - Ms Forsyth has always had an affiliation with the forest and now uses it as a teaching resource for O'Connell Public School's 76 students.
Ms Forsyth's interest in experiential learning began during a school excursion through central Australia in her second year of teaching.
Now, after being awarded a $10,000 First State Super Teachers Scholarship from the Public Education Foundation, she hopes to expand her knowledge of forest education.
"I hope to learn more about how the forest environment can be a place where students can thrive, succeed and grow," she said.
"This scholarship provides me with the opportunity to study forest education, focusing on promoting confidence, independence and self-esteem through small achievable tasks undertaken in the great outdoors."
Ms Forsyth first took her students to the forest to give the kids an opportunity to build their own cubbyhouse, which many of them had never done before.
"The kids spent hours building in the bush, working together to design and construct their cubbyhouses," she said.
"It was so exciting to witness students who usually struggle in the traditional class environment thrive in the outdoors, so we have been having forest days once a term ever since.
"Our motto at O'Connell Public School is to find the key to our students' wellbeing and learning and not to stop until we do, and I believe forest education may be the key for many of our students."
Hannah Rivers from Cudal Public School, near Orange, was awarded the Teachers Health Early Career Scholarship.