Rissington School principal Marty Heath is retiring after 22 years at the small rural school, but says the day could have come four years earlier were it not for a freeze on school closures.
Friday was the last day of Mr Heath's 44-year teaching career, and classes were a tad more relaxed than usual.
"My educational aim is to get to the end of the day," he said.
It's not the first time Mr Heath, 63, has contemplated retirement.
The decision was almost made for him in 2003 when, sparked by falling rolls, the Ministry of Education conducted school reviews on the East Coast that saw five schools close in Southern Hawke's Bay and several Wairoa schools merge.
Mr Heath felt sure Rissington School's number was up.
"We were always waiting for a letter from [then Education Minister] Trevor Mallard saying 'You won't be here on Monday'. It was quite unsettling," he said.
It was granted a stay of execution in 2004 when the Government announced a five-year moratorium on the reviews.
Mr Heath arrived at Rissington in 1986 as the former principal of Mahia School.
He and wife Yvonne had wanted to move to his home town of Napier where their children, Nathan and Nicola, could attend college.
The job at Rissington School, 15 minutes out of Taradale, was "the ideal opportunity in a lovely place".
Then, the school had 40 students and two teachers. The roll had since dwindled to 20, leaving Mr Heath as sole charge principal with help from part-time teacher Christine Greening.
Yvonne has also worked at the school as a teacher aide, secretary and bus driver.
Mr Heath's job was all-consuming. Living on school grounds meant he hardly ever got away from the place.
On the flip-side, the small number of students meant he could provide them with "holistic teaching".
"I have a lot of leeway to make my own curriculum, prepare my own activities and use my imagination."
But the job got harder to do as Mr Heath got older and this, combined with some health problems, led him to retire.
"I've taught lots of wonderful kids, and there's a wonderful group right now.
I don't do it light-heartedly," he said.
Te Awa School teacher Valerie Beats will take over next term.
Mr Heath lamented the shift away from rural communities, which has seen local clubs struggle for members.
But he will not be one of the statistics. The Heaths plan to return to Rissington after a few years in Tauranga reconnecting with family, playing bowls and doing a bit of relief teaching "to keep my brain cells ticking over".