It was Una Cardno's last day at school on Wednesday. Like all last days it was sad, but sweet, too, with the prospect of changes ahead.
Mrs Cardno has been at St John's Girls' School in Invercargill for nearly 35 years.
At a farewell afternoon held for her on Wednesday by the St John's school community, a letter was read from one of her first 5-year-olds, Nicky Deans, of Auckland.
Now a 40-year-old mother, Ms Deans said she still remembered her first day at school and the kindness of Mrs Cardno.
In the crowded school hall, dozens of old girls and mothers applauded. They too remembered Mrs Cardno's warmth and empathy, love and intuition - balm to the souls of anxious children and their mothers.
Mrs Cardno's presence as a teacher of new entrants made the school so popular that there were waiting lists for 5-year-olds.
Georgia Cleaver, 12, presented a huge bouquet on behalf of pupils. The flowers were pink because, she said, "everybody knows Mrs Cardno loves pink".
Mrs Cardno's son, Ryan, who was just 2 when his mother began teaching at St John's, said whenever people heard his surname, he was asked if he was related to Una Cardno. He was proud of the affectionate way old girls spoke of her.
Mrs Cardno said she had always loved the school and its girls and she always would.
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