John Constantine Charyk was born at Glenbow, Alberta in 1908. He received his early education at Lake Louise, Canmore, and Calgary East High School. Upon graduation from Calgary Normal School in 1928, Mr. Charyk took up a teaching post at Bryant School, a one-room rural school north of Bindloss, Alberta. He also taught at Delia and Chinook before moving to Hanna in 1954, where he served as Principal of the Hanna High School until his retirement in 1973. Charyk’s teaching career was interrupted only by W.W. II, during which he served as a Flying Officer in the RCAF, stationed in England.
Earning a B.Sc. (1938), B.Ed. (1942), and M.Ed. (1949) from the University of Alberta, John Charyk had a distinguished career as an educator. He received numerous awards in recognition of his achievements and contributions to education, including a life membership in the Alberta Teachers’ Federation. In 1971 he was made a Fellow of the Canadian College of Teachers, and in 1994 Hanna High School was renamed “J.C. Charyk Hanna School” upon its expansion to become the district school by Hanna’s citizens in recognition of Mr. Charyk’s accomplishments
Charyk is probably most widely recognized as the author of six books concerning the history of rural education. All published by Western Producer Prairie Books, these are:
- The Little White Schoolhouse, 1968, The Little White Schoolhouse Series, Vol.1
- Pulse of the Community, 1970, The Little White Schoolhouse Series, Vol.2
- Those Bittersweet School Days, 1977, The Little White Schoolhouse Series, Vol.3
- Syrup Pails and Gopher Tails, 1983.
- The Biggest Day of the Year, 1985.
- When the School Horse was King, 1988.
His first book received the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, and Syrup Pails and Gopher Tails became a Canadian best-seller.
John Charyk and his work have also been featured on many radio and television programs. During 1974-75 he had a radio program on CJDV Drumheller, giving daily five-minute talks describing life on the prairies in the early days. His tape recordings of “Sounds of a Prairie Town” were used by CFAC Calgary and CBC radio. In addition, Mr. Charyk maintained a busy schedule as a historical researcher and lecturer, sharing his knowledge and his collection of slides with school children and community groups.
He died on February 8, 1996, at the age of 87 years.
John Charyk knew the value of a good story, be it in a book, in front of a classroom, or in front of a microphone. He was a man who shared his passions and encouraged others to share theirs. The Radio Hanna project is dedicated to his memory.