Many of the country's top heads may not have been surprised to find their names on the Queen's Birthday Honours list. But Paul Grant has been the butt of family jokes about his status for too long not to have been suspicious about a summons from the monarch.
Newly knighted Sir Paul, who has transformed Robert Clack School in Dagenham, north-east London, during his 13 years in charge, was convinced his award was an "elaborate" hoax.
He has spent the week confirming the news to "bemused" pupils, but says his new title will not alter the school's plans, which include a new netball academy and the expansion of the sixth form.
Sir Paul grew up in Liverpool, the eldest of seven brothers and sisters. His father was left disabled after fighting in the Second World War and found it difficult to work.
Sir Paul, 52, was the first member of his family to go to university and has been teaching for 30 years. He said his modest background has helped him deal with pupils facing challenging circumstances.
"My family really encouraged me, but I also had three brothers who were very unsuccessful at school, and this has given me a determination to make sure children succeed," said Sir Paul, who is married with three daughters.
"As teachers, our real award is when we hear of former students who have gone on to great success, associating that with the school. That's the most wonderful feeling."
Other honours went to Imelda Jordan, head of St Colm's High in west Belfast, which received bomb threats after the Royal Navy visited the school to speak to students.
Mrs Jordan, appointed OBE, received help from neighbourhood groups, who watched the school overnight to deter would-be terrorists. But last October the Army was called in to carry out several controlled explosions.
This year, 16 heads received honours. And there was an OBE for Katharine Dore, co-founder of the TreeHouse School for autistic children in Muswell Hill, north London.
There was an MBE for Barbara Bell, a classics teacher at Clifton High in Bristol, who has raised the profile of her subject and increased its accessibility. Cynthia Cowley, who has worked for 32 years as caretaker and lunchtime supervisor at St James and St John CofE School in Akeley, Buckinghamshire, was appointed MBE, as was Janet Dean, a school crossing patrol warden at Heswall Primary in Wirral.
Elizabeth Sidwell, chief executive of the Haberdashers' Aske's Federation in Lewisham, south London, received her second honour of the year when she was appointed CBE. Dr Sidwell was also named a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers.
Peter Hawthorne, Head of 14-19 development at Wolverhampton City Council.
Patricia Langham, Head of Wakefield Girls' High School in West Yorkshire and co-chair of the Independent State School Partnership forum.
Isabel McNally, Principal of Fountain Primary in Londonderry.
Dr Elizabeth Sidwell, Chief executive of Haberdashers' Aske's Federation in London.
David Turrell, Head of Sir Bernard Lovell School, Bristol, and member of 14-19 advisory groups.
Elizabeth Sidwell, Chief executive of Haberdashers' Aske's Federation, Lewisham, south-east London.