Country singer Dolly Parton has presented Kansas teacher Dyane Smokorowski with this year's Chasing Rainbows Award. The honour is given annually to a teacher who has overcome obstacles in their own life to become an inspiring educator. The recipient spends a week as Parton's guest at her Dollywood theme park in Tennessee. And has his or her name added to a plaque kept at the Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood.

Parton was given the first Chasing Rainbows Award in 2002 by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY), because of her work encouraging reading among children, and has personally presented the award to each recipient since.

Parton grew up poor on the banks of the Little Pigeon River in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Her mother once made her a coat from assorted rags, which Dolly later commemorated in the country hit, Coat Of Many Colours. As a child, Parton would wedge a stick between the planks of her back porch, balance a tin can on top and pretend it was a microphone as she serenaded the chickens in her backyard and dreamed of becoming a country singer. In the 1970s, Parton became an international celebrity through hits songs such as Jolene and Islands In The Stream, her duet with Kenny Rogers, and 9 To 5, the theme song of a hit film in which she also starred.

With no children of her own, Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1996 to promote reading among preschool children in Sevier County, a rural community in the Smoky Mountains. In 2000, she launched the charitable programme nationally. Millions of children worldwide are now posted a book every month from birth to the age of five, with titles ranging from bedtime stories to life lessons. "The kids call me the Book Lady," says Dolly, "And I love it."

According to NNNSTOY's Chasing Rainbows Award brochure, "Although everyone knows Dolly as a talented singer, songwriter and actress, this award honours her for her lifelong commitment to improve the lives of children."

This year's award winner, Dyane Smokorowski, the Instructional Technology Coach for Andover Public Schools, said in a press release: "It is difficult to admit that my personal struggles actually prepared me to be a stronger person today. I wanted to be someone who could inspire others to reach beyond their environments, beyond their extremities, and to do as I have always done - to dream big!"