Dr. Sybil Shack, C.M., LL.D.

(1911-2004)

Sybil Francis Shack was the first female principal in Manitoba. She was an accomplished educator, with many accomplishments. Shack graduated from St. John’s High school at the age of 14. She received her BA from the University of Manitoba at 18 and her teachers’ certificate at 20.

Due to the 1930s depression, it took her two years to get a full-time teaching job so she wrote articles and editorials for a labour council newspaper and for the Western Jewish News, while doing her tutorials and substitute teaching. Eventually, she began teaching in rural Manitoba, at Evergreen and Shoal Lake. Three years later, she was hired in Winnipeg and taught at all levels. She returned to the U. of M. and earned her M.Ed. in 1945. She became principal at Sargent Park in 1948, and eventually principal at Kelvin High School, where she retired in 1978.

Shack earned a national reputation in the 1950s as a writer and broadcaster of education programs on CBC Radio. She also authored several education texts and general interest books including Armed with a Primer, The Two Thirds Majority on Women and Education, and Saturday’s Step Children, on women in Canadian business.

Shack served as president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society and as a director of the Canadian Teacher’s Federation. She led many professional education committees including the Language Arts Curriculum Council of the Department of Education. She was also a founding member and fellow of the Canadian College of Teachers.

Beyond the teaching profession, she served on a number of government boards and committees, among them Manitoba Law Reform Commission and the Manitoba Judicial Council. She also served for many years as chair of the Legislative Review Committee, and Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties (MARL), where she wrote many briefs and made frequent presentations to the law amendments committee at the Manitoba legislature. She was honourary president of MARL at the time of her death.

Earlier she served as the national president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association with which MARL is affiliated. She served on the boards of the Winnipeg United Way, the Social Planning Council and the Dafoe Foundation. She was a longtime member and supporter of the NDP. She was actively involved in preparing for the 50th anniversary book for the Jewish Child and Family Service Agency.

Shack was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1984, and received numerous other awards and honours, among them honourary doctorate of laws from the University of Manitoba, the Persons Award, given to outstanding Canadian women, and the Manitoba Human Rights Achievement Award. She was a member and supporter of many organizations, from the Manitoba Action Committee on the Status of Women to Amnesty International and the Winnipeg Humane Society.

She was a mentor and role model to many people through her teaching years and beyond. She died in Winnipeg on Jan. 22, 2004. She left her papers to the University of Manitoba archives.

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