Women of BB&N

Meet the women behind the scenes...

These women, and many more, are the reason hundreds of children are able to pursue a world-class education at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, a private high school located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. From transporting to cooking to cleaning to fixing, their jobs are some of the most important at this school.

  • Laila Shadid

Diane Cannata: a construction worker, photographer, and woman of BB&N

Have you ever wondered who turns the lights on in the morning before we get to school? Or who places hundreds of chairs into rows and rows for class meetings, college counseling events, or graduation? Or who puts the sweatshirts and water bottles strewn about the Commons into the lost and found? Or even who helps a baby bat flying through the halls of Bucky High?

Her name is Diane Cannata, the only woman on the Upper School (US) maintenance team. Ms. Cannata grew up in West Roxbury with two brothers, two and three years younger than she, and joined the school a week after graduation in June 2016. For 30 years before taking this job, Ms. Cannata was a construction worker in Boston who specialized in sheet metal work and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. She discovered this trade after working at BayBank for a year when she was 22.

“I couldn’t sit there all day—it drove me crazy,” Ms. Cannata said about the stationary job.

The biggest difference she noticed about her new job was the emphasis on attire. At the bank, Ms. Cannata said, you couldn’t wear the same outfit two days in a row, let alone two weeks.

“In construction they don’t care what you wear as long as you don’t smell,” she said. “You ruin your clothes, you ruin your pants. You get grease, gunk, all kinds of stuff on them.”

In the three decades Ms. Cannata worked in construction, she never worked with a woman, she said.

“To me it didn’t matter that much,” she said. “I liked working with the guys.”

Ms. Cannata’s favorite parts of being a construction worker were admiring the view, being outside, and getting exercise, somedays by climbing 32 flights of stairs while wearing winter clothes and carrying a cooler, backpack, and any other supplies she might need for the day.

“On nice days you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” She paused. “You’re making me talk more than I wanted to.”

Some days, Ms. Cannata brought her camera to work or used her smartphone to capture the view. Scrolling through pictures on her Instagram of steel beams illuminated by majestic horizons and cotton candy skies, she said, “I miss seeing stuff like that.”

Ms. Cannata took this photo fall of 2015 at One Nashua Street next to the TD Garden around 9:30 a.m.
"This is what I miss most about my old workplace—the view at coffee break!"

But the job was inconsistent, and Ms. Cannata wanted steady work until retirement, something she appreciates about her job at BB&N.

“I always thought a school environment would be a good fit,” she said. “There’s never a dull moment.”

This sentiment rang especially true in the fall of 2016 when Ms. Cannata decorated the school sign in front of the Nicholas Athletic Center (NAC) for homecoming. About a month later, her artwork was destroyed when a red sedan crashed into it.

Before the crash...

...and after.

While taking care of the US, Ms. Cannata has also become acquainted with the students.

“They’re very smart,” she said, “and quirky, different. But I love how they get along.”

Ms. Cannata hopes they follow their passions.

“Definitely go to college, definitely follow whatever it is you like to do because you’re going to be doing it for the next 30 or 40 years, so make sure you enjoy it,” she said. “Focus on the things you enjoy, and it will all come naturally.”

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