IT's impossible for Sophal 'Pal' Sou to pick a highlight from 34 years with Jesmond Early Education Centre.
"I remember all the times in my heart, not just one," she said. "Children keep you young.
"Sometimes you feel happy, sometimes you feel sad, but you know you're where you're meant to be.
"I love every morning when I come in, we cuddle and we talk about the good things and the bad things."
Mrs Sou, who has cared for two generations, will retire from her educator role on Tuesday.
Her colleagues will host an afternoon tea in her honour and present her with a memory book, filled with well wishes from former and current staff and families.
Mrs Sou left her native war-torn Cambodia with her husband Yean and five-month-old daughter Solina on December 28, 1979.
The family stayed in a hostel in East Hills, before they moved to the Hunter. Mrs Sou, who said she was born with a love for children, picked grapes in the vineyards, before joining a mobile van visiting home-based daycare centres, and later a preschool at Morisset.
She then moved to Toronto Uniting Church, looking after children whose parents were learning English.
She worked for around two years at a Rankin Park nursing home, but said "it was not right for me". She missed children.
She joined the community-based centre on May 16, 1985 as a foundation staff member, and in her early years would travel to a Hamilton childcare centre at lunch to breastfeed her second daughter, Linny.
Mrs Sou said working with children was an instant mood-booster.
"The children come in after the weekend and tell you stories and it makes you happy," she said.
"It's rewarding for us and the children as well.
"They talk with truth from their heart.
"You learn from the children - and they learn from us."
She embarked in 2011 on a certificate three in Early Childhood Education and Care through the International Child Care College and was full time up to 2015.
She worked Mondays and Tuesdays this year.
"I'm 65 now and would like to work more, but 70 is not far away," she said.
"You never know when you're past 60 how your body is going to go.
"It feels like the right time, but I felt sad when I put in the form last year. I never really had time to look after myself, now I do.
"There are some things I've wanted to do but have never done."
Centre director Karen Murnane and assistant director Heidi Nelson started in 1998 and said they were so sad to be losing Mrs Sou they hadn't yet filled her role, describing her as a hard-working, dedicated, much-loved and irreplaceable role model.
"She has an aura around her," Mrs Murnane said.
"When former families come in she's the first person they ask for.
"I feel sad for the new families and staff who are not going to meet Sophal."
Mrs Sou said she was looking forward to more relaxing, sewing, scrapbooking and time with her family.
She will travel to Sydney, Brisbane and Cambodia in coming weeks before making her first return visit to the centre.
"It's like the family home," she said.
"Sometimes you're away for months, but it's still your home."