"It is all a bit raw," Russell Gordon said after calling time on his role as principal of Mount Maunganui College.
Mr Gordon is taking over from Dave Randell, who is stepping down as principal of Otumoetai College at the end of the year.
Both principals announced the appointment to their schools at the same time, yesterday.
Mr Gordon said he had been brimming with emotion since announcing the news to his staff and students.
"The thought remained in my head, but when it was shared by the board chair to the staff that was when it made the 12-inch shift from the head to the heart," he said.
"My heart and soul is at Mount College, I love this place."
He had been at Mount Maunganui College for 12 years and served six as principal.
Tears ran down his face as he remembered the school's successes and sadness.
Mr Gordon was at the school when Year 9 student Breeze Brunton was killed after she was clipped by a logging truck outside the college.
He was principal when 11-year-old Harrison Mundy, the son of the school's head of science, died after a brave battle with cancer on February 16, 2014.
And he was principal when Hamish Rieger, 17, died after he was snatched by a rogue wave at the end of Moturiki (Leisure) Island on January 23, 2016, and taken out to sea.
"To be allowed into those personal spaces was very special, my awe and wonderment is in the resilience those people showed."
The principal was also there when students were nationally recognised for their academic and sporting achievements, and when the college won many Stage Challenges and Shakespeare competitions.
Mr Gordon is a big fan of performing arts. "The hardest goodbye will be at the final performing arts assembly at the end of the year," he said.
The principal was leaving to share his knowledge with other schools and said he would have regretted not applying for the role when the opportunity arose after Mr Randell announced his retirement in April.
"It allows me to continue my education career in the Bay."
He was once head of commerce at Otumoetai College and his children have all attended the school. "So I have a good understanding of that place," he said.
He did not want a big farewell. In the past, it had been a five-minute farewell with staff over an afternoon tea and he was happy with that.
Mr Gordon said he respected Mr Randell "a great deal", saying he had a personality that was larger than life.
"I am not a Dave Randell, but the shoes I want to fill is to work with the good people and staff at Otumoetai College in order to provide the best possible education we can for the young people."
Mr Randell said there was a very positive reaction when he announced Mr Gordon was the school's new principal.
"He understands the ethos of our school," Mr Randell said. "We call it the Otumoetai way."
Mr Randell said it had been an "absolute privilege" to be Otumoetai's principal and was looking forward to a break. But he hoped to continue having some involvement with the school.
He wished Mr Gordon all the best for his new role.