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After more than four decades, educator plans retirement

After working as an educator and administrator for more than four decades, P. Bruce Anderson, principal of Northern and Paul Bunyan elementary schools, is retiring. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - P. Bruce Anderson's youngest grandson won't be the only one leaving Northern Elementary School this May as he moves on to middle school. His grandfather is also leaving.

After a 44-year-career as an educator and administrator, Anderson, principal of Northern and Paul Bunyan elementary schools, is retiring.

"My youngest grandson is going through fifth grade here this year, so I figured that's as good as a time as any to retire," he said.

Soon, the vintage set of golf clubs he bought when he was a teenager, his first baseball glove he used when he was a kid and the monster walleye mount all proudly displayed on the walls of his office will be taken down, packed away and moved back home.

"That's my first class as a teacher," Anderson said, pointing to the 1968 photograph sitting on this desk of his first elementary class from Orchard Lane Elementary School in Osseo School District. "They are all around 54 and 55 years old now."

For Anderson, whose held the title "Mr. Anderson" for more than four decades, it's time to go.

"There's a lot of change coming," he said. "The change that is coming now will take a number of years to complete and I'm not going to stay around that many more years."

While he's not sure exactly what he will do after retiring, he looks forward to not sticking to a school schedule.

"I can go fishing without fighting the boat landings on the weekends," he said, grinning.

But while staff and students may not see their principal sitting at his desk next year, Anderson has no intention of quitting the "chain gain" crew at Bemidji High School football games.

"I'm not giving that up," he said.

Anderson, who grew up in Evansville, Minn., west of Alexandria, took his first elementary teaching job in Osseo, and moved one year later to Pelican Rapids, where he taught for nearly five years.

In 1973, Anderson took a break from teaching and moved with his wife to Bemidji, where he opened the Country Kitchen restaurant, which he and his father-in-law managed for nearly two years.

But it wasn't long before Anderson longed to be in the classroom once again.

Anderson was hired to teach sixth grade at J.W. Smith Elementary and then later transferred to teach at Lincoln Elementary. In 1978, after receiving additional education, he taught as a reading specialist at the high school for four years.

In 1982, Anderson was hired as principal of J.W. Smith, where he worked for 13 years before moving to Central Elementary, where he served as principal for two years.

For the past 15 years he has worked as principal at Northern Elementary. This school year he also served as principal of Paul Bunyan Elementary, where kindergarteners from Northern and Solway elementary schools have attended.

In all his years in education, Anderson said the highlight of his career has been having the opportunity to teach and to serve as a principal in the same city.

"Schools are great to work in because everyone is interested in the same thing - kids and education," he said. "As a principal, you have the gamut of working with all grade levels in the building, so I've enjoyed that."

Thinking back to how he got started teaching, Anderson said he originally went to college to go into medical technology, but then realized he was more interested in coaching and working with youth.

"Everything I had done up to that point revolved around school, mainly because I had a good experience in school but I also liked to be involved in a lot of stuff," he said. "It seemed like a natural thing to do."

During his senior year of college in the 1960s, Anderson recalled seeing an influx of teaching positions being offered, particularly for male elementary teachers.

"It was kind of a period of time where elementary teachers were mostly women," he said. "Not a lot of guys had gone into elementary schools yet. Most men taught at the high school level."

Anderson is proud of how far he's come as a teacher and administrator and said while he may not miss the paperwork that came with the job at times, he will miss the students and staff he's met over the years.

Steve Pleger, media specialist at Northern Elementary, said Anderson will be remembered for having his office door always open and for showing care and kindness to others.

"His laughter and sense of humor will be missed around the halls of Northern School," he said.

Second grade teacher Wendy Boyer added, "Mr. Anderson has been great to work for," she said.

A retirement party for Anderson will be from 5-9 p.m. May 11 at Keg N' Cork Pub in Bemidji.