"Totally grey and washed out."
That is how former principal Linda Woon's husband used to describe her after a hard day at work.
Woon retired as principal of Otonga Rd Primary School in 2020 after working in education for 50 years - 30 of those as a principal across two Rotorua schools.
She said she loved her time as a principal, but it could be lonely.
"It is a very lonely profession. You don't feel like you can go to your colleagues because you know they are burdened themselves."
Some principals were dealing with "some pretty traumatic stuff" on a daily basis.
"Everything that is in society comes through the school door. There are kids coming from upset homes and they bring that to school with them.
"There can be a lot of stress which we haven't been trained to deal with. We just need some kind of system of pastoral care for our leaders so they can help their staff."
Woon said she believed regular "free pastoral care" would benefit principals weighed down by work-related stress.
"There are many professions where people are in stressful jobs and they have free pastoral care. In education, we don't have a provided counselling service."
She said she had felt ready to retire: "That is enough service, it's my time now."
She said she had "loads of energy" after retiring, and initially spent most of her time catching up on neglected work around the house.
Woon was among 1709 teachers and principals who left the profession in the Bay of Plenty Waiariki area in the past five years, and not returned as of mid-July.
That's according to Ministry of Education payroll records for state and state-integrated schools.
The number of leavers each year rose steadily from 276 in 2016 to 417 last year. So far this year, to July 23, 133 had left and not taken up another position.
The ministry said it was optional for teachers to record a reason when they quit, so it did not have data on the most common reasons.
It was not uncommon for teachers and principals to leave the profession, sometimes for several years, before returning to teaching or management positions.
The numbers did not reflect teachers that had ceased employment indefinitely.
The ministry's deputy secretary early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said schools and kura offer wellbeing support as part of their health and safety responsibilities as employers.
"And they choose what best suits their teachers," she said.
Last month the ministry made available supplementary nationwide workforce wellbeing support through Employee Assistance Programme services.
Rotorua Principals Association president Gary Veysi said the Bay of Plenty data was comparative to other regions.
Veysi, principal of Mamaku School, said it was still "shocking" as it showed the profession was losing "that many quality educators".
He said teaching could be a "very lonely role" even with support in place.
"We are always juggling a variety of roles and responsibilities that can impact on our wellbeing, as educators we are very reflective on our practices and strive for excellent outcomes for our tamariki.
"However this can cause us to become disillusioned with what we can achieve when many other social issues are often out of our control."
He believed additional funding to address learning and behavioural needs would help retain teachers and principals.
'Burning out and just pushing through'
A 27-year-old Bay of Plenty woman who always dreamed of becoming a teacher made the difficult decision to quit after just two-and-a-half years in the classroom.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, she said she was "burning out and just pushing through" when she made the call to resign.
She was startled by the workload and paperwork outside of the classroom in her first teaching job.
"It just kept coming."
Her role started to revolve around administration rather than "being there for the children".
"I totally get the importance of paperwork and the necessary work you have got to do behind the scenes but when it becomes your focus, this was not what I envisioned teaching to be like."
Extra school responsibilities outside of teaching increased her fatigue, she said.
"You work late, you work on the weekends and you actually get burned out quite quickly ... It was not sustainable for me, and I just had to get out of it.
"I was pretty disheartened. When I got to the point that I decided I had to quit, it was really sad to say goodbye to the kids.
"I felt like I was giving up on them."
She has transitioned to a different career she had "fallen in love with".
"Some tamariki are missing out"
New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa president Liam Rutherford said keeping people in the profession meant making sure teachers were "properly equipped" to support tamariki.
The union did not collect data on why people left the profession, but anecdotally, members pointed to the impact of low staffing and high workloads.
"Beginning teachers are often being placed in scenarios where even their more experienced colleagues are struggling."
Urgently lowering ratios and putting a teacher aide in every classroom were among recommendations in the union's Pūaotanga report.
Waikato University Pro Vice-Chancellor of Education, Professor Don Klinger, said more students had entered teaching education programmes at the university than in the past.
He said anecdotally, beginning teachers that left the profession felt they were not "ready to deal with the complexities of a classroom", but better data on the reasons was needed.