Fay Stanton retires next week, not with sadness, but a spring in her step.
The long-serving principal at Mahinawa Specialist School is stepping aside after 15 years in the position, the past 17 months at the new $8.6 million facility above Mana College.
"We worked so hard to get this place and now we have, so I can leave happily. My time is up and it's time for fresh eyes and someone new. I will miss the wonderful staff and students of course, but I will keep up with what's happening."
The tireless advocate shakes her head at the fight they had to have their school built. The 40-year-old Kapi Mana Special School was falling down around their ears, with a maggot infestation in 2006, but the Ministry of Education took more than a decade to get Mahinawa built.
"We worked so hard and what we have now is amazing."
Ms Stanton began working in the special needs sector of education in 1958, in Chester, Britain. Her family is full of teachers and her mother worked with special needs children, so it was an almost-inevitable career path, she says.
In her first teaching position, Ms Stanton oversaw a class of 28 students. Attitudes then were not as they are now.
"We were not allowed to teach a child to write his name or basic writing skills. I did so much craft work in those days, because that's what you did. I was so sick of making baskets."
Although career breaks came along because of having four children, Ms Stanton did volunteer work in borstals, teaching reading.
Her family moved to New Zealand in 1974 and she worked at the Wellington IHC Pre-school and Evans Bay Intermediate until joining the Kapi Mana Special School staff in 1986. She opened Kapi Mana's satellite class at Mana College and became its special needs head of department, and then principal at the special school in 1997.
"I loved teaching intermediate children at Evans Bay, but my heart was always with special needs students."
There are changes coming that concern her, especially the government's push to mainstream 80 per cent of special needs students by 2014.
"We have our own curriculum here and what we are doing is working.
"Some students will never be able to go into the mainstream and there will need to be so much money spent on upgrading school grounds [Mahinawa has two- metre-high fences as the kids tend to run away, otherwise]."
In retirement, Ms Stanton plans to visit her sister in Turkey, and be involved in IHC and Grey Power.
- Kapi-Mana News