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The award is given to those who are well respected by their peers and who have made an outstanding contribution to education.
Prof May is a pioneer in early childhood education in New Zealand and a leader in teacher education.
She has worked in teacher education at Hamilton Teachers' College, the University of Waikato, University of Victoria and the University of Otago.
She has also had an instrumental role in the development of the ground-breaking early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki.