Sitting in the Rotorua Boys' High School boarding house in 2016, James Devenport remembers saying he'd never come back.
Four years later, the new IT technician has to remember not to call those who are now his colleagues mister, miss or sir.
"It was weird until they started calling me, 'sir', right back, which was even more awkward."
While it feels strange to be sorting out computer issues in his old maths classroom, Devenport saw the job as a great opportunity.
"I feel like I'm meant to be here. I do like helping people and this job is about helping people.
"People think being the IT guy is being closed off with lots of wires and blue light but I think it's a lot of talking to people and finding out what they need."
Devenport came back to Rotorua last year after studying computer programming in Auckland. He was helping out at his mum's shop when principal Chris Grinter approached him about an "interesting project".
Devenport couldn't say no.
"Everyone inspires me to be here. I don't know if anyone else feels the same way about being an old boy but it's like a safe environment."
Judging by the current staff roster at the school, quite a few former students agree.
This year, out of 120 teaching and support staff, 29 are old boys, including the groundsman. It is almost 25 per cent of the school's employees.
Being employed at the school "was like coming home", head of faculty guidance Tom Hale told the Rotorua Daily Post.
"I've always been proud of my school, proud to belong.
"I wanted to be a part of its development."
Director of Māori performing arts, Jamus Webster, said it felt like he had never left.
"I finished in 2000 but my connection to the school has been ongoing for 22 years."
During his time at Rotorua Boys' High, Webster dreamed of being a pilot. After a career in business and entertainment catapulted him as far as Dubai, Webster is helping students fly in different ways.
"It's in our school shield. Reach for great heights," Webster said. "Whāia te iti kahurangi."
One of the more recent returnees, deputy principal administration Jonathan Taylor said coming back hadn't been in his plans.
Taylor has spent the last 12 years teaching in Auckland.
"I can tell you now that being a teacher, returning home to be a teacher, was never ever going to happen. So never say never."
Taylor's plans obviously didn't anticipate Grinter, who Taylor described as someone "with an eye for opportunity".
Taylor's application for teaching outdoor education at the school quickly turned into something more as he took up a deputy role.
Now things have fallen naturally into place for Taylor, and he is proud to be part of the school's future.
"The most important value is being proud of being a local and being connected to where we are in the community and within our local environment.
"A school like this is important for the community of Rotorua."