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Objectives of the Friends of Historic McKay Avenue & 1881 Schoolhouse Society

  • To encourage and promote an awareness of historic McKay Avenue School and the 1881 Schoolhouse as historically, architecturally, politically, and pedagogically important influences in Edmonton and the Province of Alberta.
  • To keep historic McKay Avenue School and the 1881 Schoolhouse as working buildings in service to our community.
  • To encourage and promote the history of Edmonton Public Schools, the early political history of Alberta, and Alberta‚Äôs heritage through the student programs offered by Archives and Museum.
  • To encourage and foster recognition of the importance of public education by promoting the 1881 Schoolhouse, the first public school in the District and the Province of Alberta.
  • To preserve historic McKay Avenue School which housed the inaugural sessions of the Alberta Legislative Assembly (1906 and 1907) and is the oldest brick school in the Province.
  • To support Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum as the official repository for Edmonton School Division.
  • To procure funds for supporting both historic McKay Avenue School and the 1881 Schoolhouse.
  • To liaise with other organizations in the heritage field.

Membership (Join)

The Friends of Historic McKay Avenue & 1881 Schoolhouse Society is accepting new members. To express interest, please fill in this form.


Board of Directors

Caitlin Alton is an experienced communicator with a natural ability to create connections and produce strong relationships between diverse stakeholders. Caitlin is an empathetic and patient cross-cultural communicator who has worked in environmental consulting and is currently employed in the Aboriginal Consultation Unit for the Department of Indigenous Relations with the Alberta Government.

Caitlin has an interest in local history, and focused on Oral History and Canadian history for her Masters in Arts from Concordia University in Montreal.

As the granddaughter of Edmonton Public Schools historian Michael A. Kostek, Caitlin’s affection for the work we do will continue his legacy.

Joan Cowling has roots that extend deep into this community. She was born, raised and educated in Edmonton as were both her parents. Her father’s family were pioneers in this area in the 1880s. Edmonton is the city in which she and her husband chose to raise their family.

From 1980 to 1992, Joan served as a Trustee with the Edmonton Public School Board with three terms as Board Chair. They were times of significant change including implementation of school site decision making, open boundaries and the development of a wide range of programming including eight immersion language programs, Victoria School for the Performing Arts, special education programs and the International Baccalaureate Program.

During her public tenure Joan served as President, Canadian School Boards’ Association; Executive, Alberta School Boards’ Association; Steering Committee, City of Edmonton Economic Development Study; Board of Alberta School Employees’ Benefit Plan; Board of Edmonton Space Science Centre; Names Advisory Committee, City of Edmonton and Chair of the McKay Avenue School Museum/Archives Restoration Committee from the inception of the project to its completion.

Joan has worked as a private consultant in management and human resource consulting in both the public and private sectors. Currently she serves in a volunteer capacity on a number of boards with an education mandate and is the former President of the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights.

Laura Young is a librarian and amateur local history buff. She was born and raised in Edmonton and grew up on stories of her grandmother’s childhood in the Rossdale flats, including how she would walk up the big hill to McKay Avenue School for Home Economics and then slide down the hill to get back home. Preserving local stories for future generations has always been important to Laura; she is happy to support the work historic McKay Avenue School does in making the city’s education history come alive.

Patrick Johner is a classroom teacher in Edmonton Public Schools. In 2016, Patrick began his 20th year teaching children in Edmonton.  He has been recognized by parents, students, colleagues, and the community for the passion, skills, and knowledge he brings to his teaching. Patrick has received an Inclusive Education Teaching award, and most recently, was awarded an Alberta Excellence in Teaching Award Finalist-2016.

In September 2016, Patrick was highlighted on CTV-Two - Alberta Primetime where he was featured as an Alberta Story, describing his personal story, history, passion for teaching, and his student advocacy.

Patrick is a product of the public education system, and he is a huge promoter for keeping the history of our schools, and their contributions to Alberta society alive in our present day.

Patrick was born and raised in Edmonton, completing his Education degree at the University of Alberta. He has lived in Edmonton all his life, and recently moved with his family to the community of St. Albert. He is married to Rita Johner, a teacher and now full time mom to their four children-Kathleen, Krystine, Timothy, and Jennifer. For his free time, Patrick enjoys spending as much time as he can with his four children and his wife. They enjoy the many parks and attractions the Community of Edmonton and St. Albert has to offer.

Vivian Manasc is Senior Principal and Architect at Manasc Isaac, as well as an accomplished Architect and green building pioneer.

Since founding Manasc Isaac, Vivian’s deeply collaborative design approach and passion for sustainability have transformed the Canadian green building industry. Today, she is widely recognized as one of the country’s top “green” architects and integrated design facilitator.

No stranger to community engagement, Vivian is Past President of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, a founding Director of the Canada Green Building Council, Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the University of Calgary, a founding member of the Sustainable Buildings Symposium, co-author of Agora Borealis: Engaging in Sustainable Architecture and a frequent speaker on sustainable design across Canada and around the world. Vivian is a member of the National Capital Commission Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty, a Board Member of the Canadian Urban Institute.

Vivian was involved in the early stages of the renovation and modernization of historic McKay Avenue School in the 1980s and leads Manasc Isaac's reimagine initiative, a strategy to encourage the repurposing of historic and modern buildings.