AFTER more than 30 years walking the school yard, St Joseph's Primary School, Laurieton principal David Hughes is retiring.
The former Hunter Valley teacher fell in love with the school and the Camden Haven community in 1990.
"I love the school and it's a big part of why I've been here so long. I originally was on exchange with another teacher from here who wanted to move closer to Port Macquarie," Mr Hughes said.
"We swapped for a year but at the end of that time we both loved where we were. I'd previously worked at St Joseph's for a year and St Agnes for eight years before that.
"I couldn't believe what a great school it was, great community and I was teaching mostly primary classes. It had a real community feel, which appealed to me."
Over the years, Mr Hughes taught year four and five classes, organised fishing trips and school camps. He took over as assistant principal in 1994 and became principal in 2015.
"As an assistant principal I felt that I had something to contribute to take the school forward," Mr Hughes said.
"I'd come from a sports coordinator, religious educator background in other schools so the next step was to go into an assistant principal role.
"I was always mindful that I didn't want to lose the contact with the kids in the classroom by moving into an office responsibility.
"Originally I didn't feel that being a principal was in my nature or personality. Even today I still like to visit the students each morning, welcome them at the gate in the morning and say goodbye in the afternoon."
Now aged 60 and living in Bonny Hills, Mr Hughes said he felt lucky to have taken his first teaching role and forge an education career on the Mid North Coast.
"My responsibility was to maintain and grow the good culture of those before me and leave it in a good place for those still to come after me," he said.
"Schools have become generally busier and every second has become more accountable. I feel that the fun parts of school are becoming pushed to the peripheral so I always strive to introduce camps, fishing trips and things to encourage students to want to come to school."
Mr Hughes said he is retiring at the end of this year on December 16 and will be taking a year of leave in 2021.
"My wife and I intend to do some travelling and we will be heading off for a few caravan trips. We will be touring around and see where the wind takes us," he said.
"Tasmania is expected to be first up, we also have a postponed trip from this year to Canada. The dozens of home projects will be keeping me occupied for the foreseeable future.
"I'm not planning on leaving the area. I'm keen to get back into my hobbies such as fishing, mountain-biking and improving my golfing handicap."
Mr Hughes will be replaced by St Agnes' Primary School Port Macquarie acting principal Rick Galvin, who takes the reins in 2021.