Callan leaves his mark on Manchester Elementary

It rested on a desk facing a window, one of the final items to pack along with the shelves featuring children’s books.

The lupine plant was a final parting gift from a classroom of students to A.J. Callan, whose final day as principal was Monday at Manchester Elementary School.

Callan, who served in that capacity since 1998, elected to retire. Theressa Prather, who was an assistant principal at Chautauqua Elementary School in the Vashon Island School District, has succeed him.

The plant relates to one of Callan’s favorite activities as principal — reading to youths. It stems from “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney.

“The whole idea there is leaving the world a better place,” Callan said. “As she wanders the hillside she’s trying to find a way to leave the world a more beautiful place. She spreads lupines.”

South Kitsap School District superintendent Michelle Reid believes Callan made his own impact on the students at Manchester.

“A.J. has been a tireless advocate for children for many years,” she said. “As only the second principal to have served as principal of Manchester Elementary School, he leaves a lasting legacy for the future of the school. We will miss him and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

While Callan also worked in the Edmonds and Federal Way school districts, the majority of his career was spent at Manchester. He first was hired as a physical-education specialist in SKSD during the 1979-80 school year, where he worked at Burley-Glenwood, Manchester, Olalla and Orchard Heights elementary schools. That came a little more than six months after Manchester opened its new building. Callan later spent four years as a second-grade teacher at Manchester, beginning in the early 1990s. He said 31 of his 36 years in education were spent at Manchester.

During that time, Callan worked with former students that became teachers. As principal, he met the children of many former students.

“There will be a lot of things I miss having been here for a long time,” Callan said.

That includes serving as a role model for children, which he hopes is the legacy he leaves behind.

Callan, 62, acknowledges that he needed “a few extra years” of college because he struggled to settle on a major. He played soccer at both Seattle University and the University of Washington and took a variety of classes, which included philosophy, art and music. But he did not earn his degree from either university. That did not come until he settled at Western Washington University, where he met his wife, Gerene, and acquired his bachelor’s in elementary education.

“They can make mistakes and learn from their mistakes,” said Callan, noting that he often gravitated toward working with youths others found difficult. “There’s nothing too big that we can’t learn from.”

Perhaps the biggest lesson for Callan will come adjusting to retirement. His wife plans to teach for a couple more years in the Tacoma School District. While Callan won’t utilize that free time spreading lupines, he will be outdoors often. He and his wife have raised oysters at the beach house they share with another family near Grapeview. Callan also enjoys golf.

“I look forward to doing that,” he said. “I love being outdoors. The Northwest has so much to offer.

“I’m looking forward to a new chapter. A new adventure. We’ll see what life brings.”



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