A high school teacher accused of inappropriate behaviour with a teenaged student – including telling her he loved her and saying "you're going to be all mine" - is before a disciplinary tribunal.
The Wellington teacher said he would never "knowingly" do something to distress a student, and that his intention was always to help and support the girl.
The teacher, who has interim name suppression, appeared before the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal this morning on the charge.
According to the summary of facts, the man was teaching an art class last year when he met the student.
Over the year he made a number of inappropriate comments to the girl, including telling her "I love you, I love everything about you".
On another occasion he said to her "after Tuesday you're going to be all mine", referring to the end of festival the student was involved in.
Midway through the year, the girl withdrew from his art class and moved to an art class in a lower year.
Following this, the teacher saw the student with some friends one day and chased after her, starting a conversation with her and asking where she had been.
"He said words to the effect of 'I miss you, I miss you, make sure you come back to class'," said the lawyer for the Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC), Rebecca Scott.
The girl then told the teacher she had moved to a different class.
Scott also laid out several occasions where the teacher touched the girl's shoulder or hand, or sat next to her with his leg pressed against hers.
The 16-year-old student eventually reported the teacher's behaviour by sending an anonymous letter to the school.
The teacher today said he was passionate about art and teaching, and that it pained him deeply to be before the tribunal.
"I would never knowingly act in a way that would distress a student," he said.
"It was a horrible shock to find out this is what had happened."
He acknowledged "in isolation" his behaviour sounded "incredibly creepy", but that he was only try to convey his support to a student he felt was "floundering".
"My only focus is to help my students . . . that's all I'm interested in," he said.
The girl was "not engaging" with the subject, looked uncomfortable in class, and seemed to be "really low".
"I felt an increasing pressure to try and help this student who seemed to be floundering."
Scott said it was now clear her discomfort in class related to the teacher's behaviour, but he disagreed, saying he believed her discomfort was due to her struggles with the school subject.
"I was really worried about the student for all kinds of reasons. Her performance, her body language. She didn't seem to talk to me, it was grunts et cetera."
Scott said the teacher's response to that behaviour was "to tell her that you loved her".
"I think if you see the words in absolute isolation it sounds really creepy," the teacher replied.
"It wasn't like that at all. I said to her something like 'look, I love you, I love everything about you, I'm here for you . . . allow me to support you'.
"When I said I love you what I meant was 'you're welcome, this is your place just as much as everybody else's.' I was trying to say to her 'I'm there for you, I'm supportive of you'."
He said when he told the girl "you'll be all mine", he was implying he wanted her to do some work, because she had completed very little.
"I was attempting to show her a little bit more of a steeliness about me to suggest she needed to get the work done."
When asked by panel member Nichola Coe whether he would have used different language to encourage a male student, he said he did not think so, but he did acknowledge he had never told a male student "I love you" or anything of the like.
The man has now retired from teaching and said he has no plans to return to it.
"It's such a shame that after such a long career in which I've had such a lot of successes, I've got this at the end which has muddied the waters."
The panel members will deliver their decision in writing.