From an early age, Suzi Clapham had her sights set on being a teacher.
"Always - there was nothing else," she said.
"Originally I wanted to be a P.E teacher, but English was my second passion."
Ms Clapham, principal of Albion Park High School, retired on Friday after 37 years as an educator in the NSW public school system.
Ms Clapham, 60, started casual teaching in 1983. Her first permanent position was as an English teacher at St Marys in western Sydney.
She has been Albion Park High School principal for the past eight years.
The Flinders resident also worked for three stints as a network director of schools.
Ms Clapham could have taken on a permanent director's role, but felt she could make more of a difference as a school principal.
Ms Clapham said her main areas of focus were performing arts, Aboriginal education and Special Education.
"The work I've done in Aboriginal education is significant to me, especially being the first female Aboriginal principal of a high school in NSW," she said.
She also has a passion for the performing arts and has been the executive producer of Southern Stars for four years.
"While I might not be able to dance, I absolutely adore the performing arts and I do think that it can be, and should be, the heart and soul of a school," she said.
"Building up young people's confidence to actually move, dance and sing is just one of the greatest joys I have."
Sharon Buikstra, operations manager for Southern Stars, said Ms Clapham, "believed in students who might not have believed in themselves".
"She changed lives," Mrs Buikstra said.
Among them was Albion Park High School year 12 student Piper Lucas.
"I was ready to leave school in year 10, and she pushed me to see a better version of myself and to stick it out to year 12," Piper said.
"She's actually helped me get early entry through the Woolyungah (Indigenous Admissions) program into the University of Wollongong to do primary education."
School captain Cooper Dawson said Ms Clapham, "was a great leadership model to look up to in regards to running for school captain".
Ms Clapham said it was a "bittersweet time to get to the end of your career".
"I've got many plans," she said. "I have joined a consultancy group that come in and do evaluations and work in schools.
"I have elderly parents who I'm looking forward to spending a little more time with, as well as a large family and grandkids, and a linguistics degree that I'd like to do."
Christine Campbell will be in the role of relieving principal until the end of the year.
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