William E. Hay

Biographical Sketch of

William E. Hay

Inspector & Superintendent of Schools, Stettler, Alberta, 1931 to 1946 William E. Hay was born at

Listowel, Ontario, August 27, 1880, the only child of Andrew and Mary Hay of that town, and spent his early years in that area: Listowel, Fergus and Elora. After completing secondary school he attended a "Model" school for the preliminary training of teachers inthat area, taught a few years and then attended Normal School at Woodstock for final teacher training.

In 1908 he came west on a "harvester" ticket to Strathcona, at that time the terminus of the CPR north from Calgary and a larger center than Edmonton on the north side of the Saskatchewan River, and was able to sell the return half of his "harvester" ticket for enough cash to keep him going until he obtained a teaching job. He taught school in Strathcona until 1906, when he moved to Medicine Hat to become a teacher and principal there. In 1908 he went to Calgary as a teacher, or perhaps principal, of the Normal Practice School associated with the Calgary Normal School, at that time housed in what later became the McDougall School. On December 30, 1908 he married Mary B. Rae, a teacher on the Medicine Hat school staff and one of six daughters of James Rae, a merchant of that city. To this union were born five sons: Robert, Gordon, Stewart, Cameron and Donald.

About the middle of 1910, Mr. Hay and family returned to Medicine Hat School District, a position he held until 1923. He was undoubtedly influenced by the educational philosophy of John Dewey, and during his tenure as superintendent in Medicine Hat introduced several features, which placed Medicine Hat in the "avante gaurde" of educational practice in Alberta. By 1915 or earlier, kindergartens had become an integral part of the elementary system at a time when few, if any, other school systems had them as part of the public school system. At least two schools: Elizabeth Street School and Earl Kitchener School had rooms especially designed for kindergarten use. Sixty years later, kindergartens were becoming an accepted of the publicly funded Elementary school grades. Another unusual feature of the school system was introduced during his tenure as superintendent was a half-yearly promotion system, designed to give more opportunity for pupils to proceed at their own speed and reduce the penalties to a higher level. A half-year repetition was not as harsh as a full year one. Also, "manual training" and "domestic science" were features of upper level education in Medicine Hat at a time when these subjects were rather rare outside large cities.

In 1923, however, the recession of 1921 had caused retrenchments to take place and Mr. Hay left Medicine Hat to take a position with the Calgary School board on the staff of South Calgary High School until 1926. This is when he was appointed by the Education of Alberta to be an instructor at the Calgary Normal School.

In 1931 Mr. Hay was granted a transfer to the position of Provincial Inspector of Schools in Stettler, Alberta, a position he held until his retirement in 1946. While in this position he was appointed one of the three to revise the Social Studies aspect of the elementary grades, and from the labours of this committee was born the "Enterprise system" for the teaching of Social Studies in Grades one to six. This launched Alberta into "progressive education" in a big way in the year 1936, after a trial period in 1958.

After his retirement from the service of the Department of education, Mr. Hay served as Secretary of the Stettler School board until shortly before his death on April 17. 1958. Shortly thereafter, in recognition of his work with the Stettler School Board and his work as educator and in the community, the Wm. E. Hay High School in Stettler was named after him.

When Mr. Hay and family first moved to Stettler in 1931 they lived in a newly built house on Taylor Street, a half-block north of the United Church. In late 1939 or early 1940 Mr. Hay bought the house at 4720-49th Street from a Mr. McIvor who had been a merchant in Stettler, and after extensive renovations to the inside of the house, they moved into it in 1940. This house is said to have been the first hospital in Stettler, so it is of some historical importance. It is now, apparently, the site of Bell's Tea Room.

Written By: W. Gordon Hay
Former superintendent of Schools, Camrose, Alberta