WHEN Steve Hawkins started as principal of tiny Tintinhull Public School 14 years ago, he set himself one firm goal.
“I wanted it to be the sort of school where kids have the same smile on their face when they leave in the afternoon as they did when they walk in,” Mr Hawkins said.
“And that is what has happened. But I never realised that I would have the same smile on my face each day.”
As the final bell for the year sounds on Wednesday, that smile might turn to tears as the popular principal closes his office door for the last time.
Mr Hawkins, who previously did teaching stints at Tamworth West, Manilla Central, Attunga and Inverell, has left an indelible mark on the Tintinhull school community.
He has helped grow the school from a one-building, one-teacher, 17-pupil facility to a thriving small school boasting 60 pupils.
“When I left Tamworth West, people thought I was a bit crazy going to a one-teacher school,” Mr Hawkins said.
“But I just love the culture. I found my niche in life here.
“It’s like an extended family and you develop a close connection with each child and each parent.”
He will hand over the reins to incoming principal Andrew Rodgers in 2014.
For Mr Hawkins and wife Jill, the next chapter in their life will involve taking their blind son Tony, who also lives with cerebral palsy, on a tour around Australia.
Tintinhull P and C Association president Dr Peter Fowler said Mr Hawkins had been an ornament to the school.
“We just can’t speak highly enough of him,” Dr Fowler said.
“We always found his commitment to the school and the community was of the highest standard and that was reflected in what happened in and around the school.
“You don’t grow a school like he has by doing something wrong and he’s going to be missed very much.”