In 1993, Ben Hancock started Tauhara College as a Year 9 student.
Last Monday he returned to begin as the new college principal.
Welcomed by a pōwhiri from the whole school community, Mr Hancock began the pōwhiri on the manuhiri paepae (where the visitors sit) and finished sitting at the tangata whenua paepae.
He was called into the school hall by kaikaranga Year 11student Emma Billings. Speeches were made by manuhiri kaikōrero Raymond Subritzky and David Faitala.
Raymond Subritzky, kaumātua at Kaitaia College where Mr Hancock was recently deputy principal, said Tauhara College had a trend of training up deputy principals to become inspiring principals who then leave.
"He [Mr Hancock] was a student at this college, now he is ready to be a principal.
"His heart is in the right place. [You will find] he approaches difficult situations in a different way."
Wesley College teacher David Faitala spoke of Mr Hancock's commitment to excellence in his past career at Wesley College.
"Ben is a passionate educator. I worked with Ben for a few years and you are so lucky to have him."
Mr Faitala said the school community would find that Mr Hancock was a force for good, as an educator and as a coach.
"He coached some of the All Black players in yesterday's Bledisloe Cup. He inspires students to become bigger and better."
On the paepae Mr Hancock was supported by his wife Dominique Hancock, youngest son Jaedyn Hancock, parents Chris and Jane Hancock, parents in-law Chris and Trudy Jacobi, brother Sam Hancock, and friends and supporters including professional colleague Jeriilynne Dong-bhana and education consultant Michael Leach.
Mr Hancock addressed the students and said he was a rough diamond when starting as a student back in 1993 but by the time he had finished his secondary schooling "a few of the edges had been knocked off". He said he wanted to thank the people who walked along beside him in his journey to Tauhara College as principal.
"We are born a bird of feathers. We are born to fly. The better our education the higher we fly."
He said he loves a good challenge and is looking forward to working with the students, staff and the wider school community so as to make a positive difference in each other's lives.
Mr Hancock laid down a challenge to the school community assembled, to think about what they can do to support their tamariki growing up. He received a korowai and then went to sit down on the tangata whenua paepae.
Tauhara College kaumātua Bill Simmonds said Mr Hancock fights the good fight and said the school will be the better for it.
"He was moulded by the college as a student and moulded by the other places he worked. But most of the moulding would have been done by his wife!"
Mr Hancock said he was blown away by the pōwhiri and felt very welcome to the kura.