Bruce Cannard never intended to stay in the Tri-Cities.
When he and his wife, Lorie, rolled into the city in 1978, he planned to work one year as a middle school science teacher before moving to a different district.
They were having trouble finding a place to live, until he met a truck driver in a Safeway parking lot. After explaining his plight, the driver offered him a place to stay.
That was the beginning of 39 years as a leader in the district. Cannard is retiring at the end of the school year.
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The soft-spoken man with bushy white eyebrows wakes most mornings to hike up Badger Mountain. On a cabinet hangs a poster-sized photo of him, standing in the snow with a pair of snowshoes marking a trail through a snow-covered field.
A love of the outdoors and science marks his career. When he was a science teacher at Desert Hills Middle School, he started an outdoor camp for sixth-grade students.
“I have a zip line in my back yard,” he said, explaining it is for children.
After 10 years of teaching science, he moved into administration at Highlands Middle School, Canyon View Elementary and Edison Elementary.
His love of teaching science did not leave when he transitioned into administration. He was concerned about the state of science education, and, along with Jim McLean and Nancy Sauer, he helped design the initial science kits for the Battelle Science Resource Center.
The center, based in Kennewick, ships science kits to dozens of schools throughout southeastern Washington.
While he impacted science and science curriculum throughout the state, Cannard is perhaps most remembered for the things he did to reward children for learning.
He spent a day on the Canyon View Elementary roof after losing a bet with the PTA in relation to a membership drive. He interviewed an assistant principal candidate from the school’s roof, he said.
When the WSU Cougars beat the Huskies in 1997, he spent a day in a dress.
He spends most recesses on the playground, sometimes bringing a kite with him. His presence deters problems.
“And it allows me to connect with the kids,” he said.
At times, Cannard would employ his “twin” brother Bernard. The snaggle-toothed alter ego would pop into classrooms on Friday afternoons at lunch to talk to students.
“Most people have a cabinet full of books,” Cannard told the Herald in 2009. “I have a cabinet full of crazy novelty stuff to connect with kids.”
It was his effort to connect with the students, and work on the school’s dual-language program, implementation of a reading instruction program and forming the Edison Action Team for Partnership, that earned him recognition from the Association of Washington School Principals.
He was named the state’s Distinguished Principal of the Year in 2009.
Cannard gave much of the credit to a school and district full of admirable teachers and able administrators.
Greg Fancher, assistant superintendent of elementary education, said Cannard is known for his dedication to his staff and students.
“Bruce has left a lasting mark, not only on countless students, but our schools,” Superintendent Dave Bond said in a speech for Cannard’s retirement.
Cannard’s first plan after retirement is a trip to Maui, and a journey to all of the national parks around the country.