Marie Wolniewicz and her mother Anna arrived in St. Albert in 1908. She was five years old. Marie attended the Youville Convent School for one year. She spoke almost no English when she started but began to learn both English and French. Father Mérer School (the Brick School) opened in 1909 and Marie completed the rest of her schooling there. She was an excellent student and decided early on that she would like to be a teacher. She studied in Calgary for a year and finished her Bachelor of Education through summer courses in Edmonton. Around 1922 she began to teach grade one at the Father Mérer School. She then spent four years teaching in Winterburn, Picardville, Lac La Biche and Chauvin before returning to St. Albert.

Miss Wolniewicz was very much loved by her students and helped them however she could. She didn’t talk much about her Polish roots but was very understanding when Polish or Ukrainian children had difficulties. There was a sand table in her classroom where the children could have a few minutes to play when the English instruction became too much for them. One of her students, Adam Hauptman, spoke no English when he arrived in St. Albert. He had completed grade four but because he only spoke Polish he was moved down to the grade one class. He credits Miss Wolniewicz with teaching him English and moving him back up to grade three within the year.

Marie Wolniewicz never married. She took care of her mother until Anna’s death in 1954. Most of her energies were spent on her teaching but she found time to start a crafts club, encouraging girls to learn embroidery, sewing and crocheting and for boys to learn woodworking and other skills. She also regularly visited the seniors at the Youville Home and made some thirty quilts for the residents. She herself spent her final years in the Youville Home. Miss Wolniewicz made an enormous contribution to the community through her teaching. She loved to teach her young students so much that she even turned down an offer to become principal so that she could stay in her classroom.

Marie Wolniewicz’s Grade 1 class at the Little White School, 1949-1950. Musée Héritage Museum, St. Albert Historical Society fonds