Thousands of Students Perform Haka Dance for Beloved Teacher

See Students Emotional Send-Off for Beloved TeacherPlayABCNews.com
WATCH See Students Emotional Send-Off for Beloved Teacher

Thousands of high school students in New Zealand performed a traditional haka dance as a send-off for a beloved teacher who died.

Video shows at least 1,700 students from Palmerston North Boys' High School on the country's North Island performing the dance at the funeral service of Dawson Tamatea, who died on July 20. He was a physical education and mathematics teacher at the school for almost 30 years, a spokeswoman told ABC News.

"We are extremely proud of our boys' performance and we know that Mr. Tamatea would be, too," the school wrote on its website.

Haka is an ancestral war dance performed by the Maori people of New Zealand. The rugby team "All Blacks" are famous for performing the dance before their games.

"This complex dance is an expression of the passion, vigour and identity of the race," according to a description on the All Blacks's website, and "a custom of high social importance in the welcoming and entertainment of visitors."

According to the school, Tamatea was also involved in my extra curricular activities and sports, including tennis, basketball, and softball teams at the school.

"He is very well known amongst our school community, and amongst the wider Palmerston North community," rector D.M. Bovey wrote in a statement, "We are very conscious that Mr. Tamatea's passing will be difficult for many young men with whom he has had a close association as either a teacher, coach, manager or camp leader, as well as for many of our teachers who have known him for a long period of time."

Messages of condolences have been pouring in online. In an online book dedicated to him, Tracey McKinnon, from Palmerston North, wrote: "He took my son under his wing and nurtured him like he was one of his own."

"I could see you really loved your job as an awesome teacher," Te Aroha Te Kura wrote on the school's Facebook page. "We're all gonna miss you."