Sheryl Nelley's stint as head teacher at Kaitaia's Mission Place Kindergarten was her last job in a working life that began 40 years ago, but it was the one she had enjoyed the most.
"The last six years have been the best," she said on Friday, when she was farewelled by the children, parents and colleagues before a lunch of kindergarten-made pizza.
It had had its challenges though.
"Teaching is one thing, being the head teacher is another," she said.
"I had to believe in myself to take on the responsibility as head teacher, but I couldn't have had a better job in a better place with better staff and better whānau."
Fellow teacher Gaylene Latimer led the tributes, describing Sheryl as someone who had "really cared" about the job she had done and the children and families she had engaged with. She had also given her the confidence she had needed to believe that she too could be a teacher.
And, in true kindergarten tradition, she was officially discharged with a certificate declaring that she had graduated and was now ready for school.
Bronwyn Coulton, from the Northland Kindergarten Association, also commended her for the job she had done.
"I can't put into words all that you have given to the children and families at this kindergarten," she said.
"You have made such a difference to so many children's lives.
"Your dedication, hard work and commitment have made you a great role model for all that we want our children to become."
The kindergarten was not losing her altogether though - she would be back from time to time as a reliever.
Sheryl said she had begun her working life as a nurse at Kaitaia Hospital, leaving to raise her children, during which time she completed playcentre training, following which she took up a position at the Ahipara pre-school (now known as Sandhoppers).
She had subsequently spent 12 years with Parents as First Teachers, finally moving to Mission Place.
Born in Whangārei, she had been raised by her parents, Guy and Rene Thomson, on the family farm at Broadwood, and was very much part of the community to which she had devoted her working life.
And, having received her super gold card just a few weeks earlier, it was the right time to go.
"I've enjoyed it but I'm really happy to be leaving now so I can spend more time with my family and my own interests," she said.