By Xanthe Couture
Although Premier Stelmach remembers many teachers who guided him throughout his school years in Andrew, Alberta, he says that he owes his success in public service to his former principal and social studies teacher, Marshall Krywaniuk.
“Mr Krywaniuk is the real reason I am the premier of the province of Alberta today,” Premier Stelmach says.
According to the premier, Krywaniuk played a crucial role in developing his interest in politics. “Mr Krywaniuk had a very unorthodox way of teaching social studies, and he got me involved in politics, world affairs and the community,” Stelmach says. “He created an interest and a curiosity in me with respect to social studies that led me to get involved in the community, and to know all the local politicians.”
Krywaniuk’s encouragement led him to participate in several events that furthered his interest in politics, including attending a model United Nations conference in Banff and a youth exchange in Winnipeg.
“Mr Krywaniuk was very observant in the classroom, and he recognized the fact that I was very interested in world events. He offered me many opportunities which I seized,” Stelmach says. “I learned a lot in that period of time, and then, through getting interested in governance, I became the president of the Andrew High School’s student union.”
Premier Stelmach says Krywaniuk also taught him the importance of being an active citizen in the community: “You could feel his passion for talking about our community, and how we should get involved in helping others and never take things for granted in terms of how good we had it in Canada. We had a good life, being raised on the farm and attending school in Andrew; he helped us realize that other parts of the world were not so well off.”
During Stelmach’s high school years the FLQ (Front de libération du Québec) crisis was a major issue affecting Canadians. “It was at a time when Canada, to a degree, was in crisis and so we spent a lot of time talking about it, reading about it and making presentations in class,” Stelmach remembers.
Krywaniuk also imparted a crucial life lesson that would serve Stelmach well in his future role as premier of Alberta. “He was the one who told me to always look at both sides of a situation and weigh all the information. That’s when you make a good decision,” Stelmach says.
“Mr Krywaniuk dedicated just an unbelievable amount of personal time. Many times, if he recognized a particular talent, he would spend hours after school helping a student build on that talent.”
For Stelmach, the dedication and encouragement of Krywaniuk are defining characteristics of any successful teacher. He remains close with several teachers from his high school years in Andrew. Unfortunately Krywaniuk has passed on.
“Many of my teachers have given me advice and we are friends today,” says Stelmach.
Premier Stelmach believes that helping students realize their potential defines many of Alberta’s teachers today: “Years ago the teacher was a very strict disciplinarian, but if we did well our teachers celebrated our achievements with us. That strict discipline isn’t as obvious now, but we have thousands of amazing teachers in Alberta who are committed to helping young people grow into thoughtful and contributing adults.”