One had never heard of him and many didn't belong to his union - but the first recipients of the Steve Sinnott fellowship have vowed to continue the tireless work of the late NUT general secretary as they start a year of activities made possible by the award.
The Pounds 400,000 government-funded scheme will pay for 15 teachers or other staff from disadvantaged areas to take time out to work on community activities.
The time spent creating new relationships with organisations is designed to reflect Mr Sinnott's passion for teachers working together.
Members will be freed for two days a week for two terms and will have to share with other teachers what they have learnt. They were chosen after interviews in London chaired by the "behaviour tsar" Sir Alan Steer. They met in London this week to discuss their plans.
Carl Ward, who applied for the fellowship after reading about it in The TES, said he was proud to represent the legacy of Mr Sinnott, who died last year aged 56.
The fellowship will allow Mr Ward, director of innovation and development at Sutherland Business and Enterprise College in Telford, to finalise his school's trust status. It will be one of the first co-operative trust schools in the UK. He aims to provide outreach activities.
Mr Ward, who has been a teacher for 15 years, is working with schools and colleges in the Donnington and Trench areas of the town to form a "learners' trust", with the Mid Counties Co-operative Society, which is sponsoring the school. The firm has agreed to match the money he gets from the fellowship, which means it will run for a whole year.
The school was facing special measures when Mr Ward and his head joined it three years ago.
Mr Ward said he thought Steve Sinnott would have approved of an outward-facing school like theirs.
Marcia Clack, a family outreach worker, runs a mini-farm at the inner-city Phoenix High School in Shepherd's Bush, west London. She is a Unison member, who readily admits she didn't know who Steve Sinnott was when her head suggested applying for the fellowship. Her plans include offering GCSE courses to the community and a food co-operative market for cut-price fruit and vegetables.
"Having time off will allow me to go to business and persuade more to get involved with the life of the school - from mentoring and funding to work placements," she said.
Mr Sinnott was heavily involved in international work - something fellowship winner Shaun McInerney hopes to replicate. The assistant principal of North Liverpool Academy worked in schools in Mumbai launching the international baccalaureate. He hopes to work with UK communities in the same way.
Mr McInerney has set up several projects, including community mentoring and support for families undergoing separation or divorce. He plans to develop activities to stop gangs and will use his free time to write bids to attract funding.