Pupils at a Palmerston North school have paid an emotional and touching tribute to a well-respected teacher who died last week.

Dawson Tamatea, who died in his sleep last Monday, taught at Palmerston North Boys' High School for almost 30 years.

He was widely admired among the school's more than 1500 pupils and in a powerful mark of respect, the entire roll performed a rousing haka as Mr Tamatea's body pulled into the school's front gates in a hearse.

Clearly conveying how they felt about the man, the boys put everything into their tribute before a haunting silence breaks out and the hearse passes through a sea of bowed heads.

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A video of the haka, placed on YouTube by the school, has so far been viewed more than 40,000 times.

"This was a very emotional and powerful performance. We are extremely proud of our boys' performance and we know that Mr Tamatea would be too," the school said on the video sharing website.

Those who watched the haka were impressed.

"This is one of the most badass things I've ever seen. So much respect. So much power. Very tribal," one viewer commented.

"Amazingly powerful. Your teacher would be proud," another said.