The former head of a large comprehensive in the Home Counties has been made a Dame of the British Empire in the New Year Honours List.
Marcia Twelftree, who led the "outstanding" Charters School in Sunningdale, Berkshire, for 12 years described the honour for services to education as "a huge privilege".
The grandmother, who retired from headship in the summer, was also awarded for her wide range of interests outside school, including her work advising the Government on policy at the Implementation Review Unit.
She is also a director of the School Food Trust and works as a school improvement partner advising other schools. She served as a member of the Association of School and College Leaders' council for many years.
Dame Marcia said: "No one was more surprised than I was at this unexpected news. It is a huge privilege to be honoured in this way. In accepting it, I would like to pay tribute to all the exceptional staff at Charters School."
Dame Marcia was one of 19 headteachers, 13 school and college principals, nine school governors, three teachers and a classroom assistant to receive honours.
Frances Hartley, who was headteacher of Deans Primary School in Salford, was appointed a CBE for transforming the school from one of the borough's worst-performing primaries into one that is now rated "outstanding" by Ofsted.
A CBE also went to Vanessa Wiseman, former head at another school ranked "outstanding" by Ofsted, Langdon Secondary in East Ham, London.
Ms Wiseman became well-known in education circles in 1996 after she banned exclusions at the school, a move generally credited with helping to improve its exam results.
Helen Clegg-Hood was appointed an OBE for two decades at the helm of Shiremoor Primary in Newcastle upon Tyne, where she led the school through three outstanding Ofsted reports.
She told her local newspaper that it was "a fantastic feeling" to be rewarded for her hard work.
An MBE went to John Skinner, director of music at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College in Lewisham, south London.
In the special needs sector, Judith Ragan, headteacher of Queensmill School for children with autism, in Hammersmith and Fulham, west London, received an OBE.
Other prominent figures in education were also honoured. Most notably, a knighthood went to John Holman, national director of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths programme.
Steve Munby was appointed a CBE after five years as chief executive of the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services.
Mr Munby said the award was a recognition of the work of all school leaders and their teams and that he was "humbled" by the accolade.
A CBE also went to Dr Michael Cresswell, director general of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, Britain's largest exam board.
AMONG THE HONOURS
A selection of this year's gongs for services to education
John Holman, national director, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths programme
Marcia Twelftree, former headteacher, Charters School, Sunningdale, Berkshire
Diana Morrison, headteacher, St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls, Lambeth, London
Vanessa Wiseman, former headteacher, Langdon School and Sports College, Newham, London
Margaret Crennell, senior assistant headteacher and head of learning support, Marriotts School, Stevenage
Denise May, director of sport and assistant headteacher, Budehaven Community School, Cornwall.