The first time Diana Alexander stepped onto the stage, she knew she never wanted to be anywhere else.
She was 12 years old and cast as the lead heroine in The Foolish Gentlewoman in Wagga High School's annual production.
But it certainly wasn't a typical casting process.
"My ag teacher had dragged me out of the playground to play the lead," Mrs Alexander remembers.
"Now I'm glad he did."
That first taste of the theatre life spawned a lifelong passion for the arts.
Throughout her illustrious career, the passion took her all over the Riverina, and the world pursuing her own talents, and fostering the talents of young stars.
For her years of service to the arts and education communities in both Lockhart and Wagga, Mrs Alexander has this year received an Order of Australia medal.
Announced on Australia Day, Mrs Alexander said she was still processing the enormity of the title.
"It's a great privilege, I'm still coming to terms with it all. It's so much to be recognised for," she said.
"My journey through education has involved so many. It's such a privilege to have been able to work with the teachers, schools and students I have worked with."
Since 1963, Mrs Alexander has worked as an arts co-ordinator around the Riverina, a music teacher at Kooringal High School, Turvey Park Public and infants teacher at Lockhart Central School.
Between 1992 and 2002, she also served as the assistant principal of Lockhart Central School.
Having grown up in the Riverina, Mrs Alexander admits there has never been too much desire to "stray from home".
"I went to school in Wagga, I went to teacher's college in Wagga, I taught in Lockhart, I never strayed," she said.
"The only time I went away was when I did my masters [degree] at Sydney University.
"Then I got married and had my daughter [in 1971] and at that time they expected you to retire, but I didn't. I kept teaching the arts in Urana and The Rock."
Despite travelling all over the world, performing on some of the world's biggest stages, her heart has always been firmly placed on the land.
"I married a farmer, he wasn't about to pick up the farm and move it to the city," Mrs Alexander recalls jokingly.
"There were always so many opportunities here, it's a vibrant town."
Last January, Mrs Alexander was joining a group of talented Riverina students on a tour of Europe.
They performed inside The Vatican, and on Australia Day in 2019, they were singing to a private audience inside the Australian Embassy in Croatia. Looking back, she laughs " it was a very different way to spend the day".
Given her enormous body of work in talent development so far, a point of unique pride for Mrs Alexander remains her 1963 performance in Oklahoma.
"I was the first leading lady to play in a musical on the stage at [Wagga's] civic theatre when it opened," she said of the performance.
"They don't tend to cast me as the young 17-year-old heroine anymore, and I don't get to hit the stage as much as I would like to these days.
"I will go back to it when I retire, but I have more to do with the community now in running festivals, camps, exhibitions and concerts. I'll always remember Oklahoma though."
Still a prolific music teacher around the region, Mrs Alexander describes her students as "the absolute centre of my universe, aside from my family".
She intends to keep it that way for many years to come, and has dedicated her national honour to her students, her colleagues through the ages, and her family.
"You hear people say this, and now I really know what it means. I could only accept this if it brings acknowledgement to the work of so many who have been there with me," she said.