By Cliff Otto
Grace Melnyk, the youngest of three children of Ukrainian immigrants, was born on May 15, 1927, in Hamlin, Alberta, near Vilna. Her father was a Ukrainian Greek Orthodox priest, serving country parishes in central Alberta.
She attended Sachava School near Andrew for the first six years before the family was transferred to Roblin, Manitoba, in 1938. Grace completed her high school education in June 1943 and was able to enroll in the Faculty of Home Economics at the University of Manitoba, courtesy of a two-year scholarship.
For employment during the summer after her first year, Grace was assigned to Willen School near Elkhorn. With no teacher training whatsoever and few resources, she was asked to complete the school year. The classroom teacher had enlisted and had been sent overseas. In spite of the many obstacles it turned out to be a great experience and introduced her to the love of teaching.
Grace graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics in 1947 and was soon hired as a District Home Economist with the Alberta Department of Agriculture for the Vegreville area.
Grace was married in 1951 and, in 1952, moved to Edmonton. Since there were no jobs for home economists in Edmonton, she worked in the yarn lab at Canadian Chemical as a laboratory analyst. She found it difficult to work there after the birth of her two sons due to the shift work. She took a job in the quality control lab at Canada Packers and was employed there until 1964.
She contemplated a career change at this point in her life. With a two-month leave of absence from Canada Packers and the added benefit of a student loan, Grace registered in two summer school courses. Seventeen years after graduating from the University of Manitoba, she was enrolled in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta.
Although it was a daunting experience initially, Grace soon discovered that many mature trades people had enrolled in the Faculty of Education in order to teach the vocational courses that were being offered at many high schools. Following two summer school sessions, one full-year program and two rounds of student teaching, a BEd degree and a teaching certificate were a reality.
One of her student teaching rounds was at Jasper Place Composite High School. She taught Home Economics at the school for nine years, finding it to be as rewarding as she had imagined it would be after her brief introduction to the profession so many years before.
In 1974, she was offered the assistant principal position at W.P. Wagner High School. Although she was reluctant to leave the classroom, this assignment was a new challenge in a different kind of school with an excellent staff.
A year later, Grace was seconded to the Depart-ment of Education for one year as the Supervisor of Home Economics. Upon her return to teaching at W. P. Wagner, she started taking the courses required to obtain a master's degree in Education Administration, which she completed in 1980.
In 1986, Grace became the Supervisor of Student Placement in central office where she remained until her retirement in 1990.
Grace enjoyed travelling and has visited central Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, Ukraine, the West Indies and the Scandinavian countries. Her hobbies are knitting and weaving. Her looms are still active— just not as much as they once were.