After nearly fifty years in the education sector, Erika Bon decided to retire.

“I’m nearly 68. I don’t want to still be here when I’ve lost the energy and enthusiasm. You got to go when you still worry about the kids and you still love them and you still want to do everything with them. That’s what it’s all about,” said the assistant principal of St Joseph’s Catholic School in Takapuna, Auckland.

Mrs Bon started teaching in 1969. “With two years off for good behaviour,” she said with a laugh.

She only had a break when she went to England for a year and another when her youngest son was born.

Fit and energetic, Mrs Bon’s twinkling eyes showed her passion for teaching.

“Teaching is not a job, it’s a vocation. If you’re not passionate, you’re not going to be a good teacher. I think the hardest thing I find is never knowing when I’ve done enough,” she said.

If half an hour more would make a difference to a child’s learning, Mrs Bon wouldn’t hesitate to give the extra time.

“The children are at the core of everything I do. If it’s not going to make a difference to them, I’m not going to do it,” she said. Mrs Bon said teaching these days is much more interactive with new technology and open classrooms.

“I’ve always been an interactive teacher. Because if you talk to children, they don’t absorb much but if you get them to do things, they remember and they learn from that,” she said.

Mrs Bon’s interactive teaching philosophy had seen children dressed in costumes and putting up medieval banquets for history lessons, making steamed pudding when studying measurements and growing plants to learn hydroponics.

Mrs Bon said while technology is great for learning, it could also be really hard on children.

“They are on social media so much. They tend to get upset when someone writes something mean (about them),” she said. “You have to teach them to be strong and say it doesn’t matter.”

“I think they need to be allowed to be children. Life is so competitive and I think that makes children so [stressed]. They need to get out and play a lot more,” she said.

Mrs Bon’s colleagues will miss her.

“Erika has been a very special part of our school. She has shared her very contagious passion for teaching with hundreds of teachers over the years and impacted thousands of children’s lives in a positive and, in some cases, life changing way,” said team leader Debbie Pratt.

Mrs Bon decided to retire to be able to do the things she wants to do while she is still strong — things like reading just to relax, going fishing or visiting her sons.

“My son said, ‘Mum, we’ve always waited behind 30 other children for you to have time’, and I’ve felt so guilty when they told me that,” she said with a little laugh.

She said it will be odd not going back to school entirely so she will pop in from time to time to help.

“If I had my life again, this is the job I want to do. It’s like missionary work. It’s making a difference for the children,” she said.