But in recent years John Palmer's love of performing in the classroom has been forced to play second fiddle to targets and bureaucracy.
So now the long-serving head from Exeter is quitting to pursue his dream of being an actor.
The 58-year-old, who a keen amateur thespian, is taking early retirement to enrol on a theatre studies course which he hopes will unltimately lead to a career on the stage.
"To a certain extent you have to be a good actor to be a teacher," he said.
"Often you have to act angry, happy, sad or inspired when the lesson demands it, even if you don't particularly feel like it."
Mr Palmer has written several plays for children, including one earlier this year based on Dr Who. But, he said, the paperwork that now comes with managing the 400-pupil John Stocker middle school means he has little opportunity to work with pupils.
So today will be Mr Palmer's last in education after more than 30 years.
In September, John Stocker will merge with a neighbouring first school as part of a move from three to two-tier education in Exeter.
Mr Palmer, meanwhile, will begin a postgraduate course in theatre studies at a drama school in Ealing, west London.