Megan Wolfe was the kind of teacher who always had ex-students drop into Room 107 to head into her classroom, catch her up, or cuddle her—if not all of the above.
Those close to Wolf say she was born to be a loving mother to her two children and the hundreds of nursery students she has cared for throughout her 10-year career at the Winnipeg School District.
“She would do anything for my sister and me, and anyone she loved — that included her students. She gave her everything for her students,” said her adult son Alex Kirbison.
Every year at Christmas, Wolf was overwhelmed with handmade cards, chocolates, and other gifts of appreciation. This year, she wasn’t able to say goodbye to her students at École JB Mitchell before the winter break.
Wolf developed flu-like symptoms on December 20, forcing her to miss the last days of school in 2021. Her symptoms became so severe that 911 was called the next day.
The 53-year-old, who received three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. Wolf later went into cardiac arrest and experienced a severe immune response. She died Christmas morning at St. Boniface Hospital.
Exact details about the cause of death and where she contracted the virus are still uncertain.
The school district’s COVID-19 dashboard shows one exposure that occurred in JB Mitchell, which has a student population of 400, in the two weeks prior to December 21.
In any given academic year, Wolf can have upwards of 40 students, between morning and afternoon shifts.
The sheer number of students meant report card time was a challenge, but she made sure to write personalized letters to each student, said Andy Gao, her partner of 7½ years — the latter of which involved a lot of planning to manage a long-distance relationship (Wolf lived in Winnipeg, and Gow was stationed in Colorado) despite travel restrictions.
“There was no cut and paste with it,” he said, adding that his partner did it all with love.
“She knew no other way. She was an incredible friend, an incredible mother, and an incredible teacher.”
Wolf was a firm believer in play-based learning, often taking students on seasonal nature walks in River Heights, a neighborhood she’s called home for decades.
Penny McClandris, a teaching assistant, said her friend was fostering a “warm and happy atmosphere” in her classroom. McClanders said she loved introducing the students to new music and singing with them, whether it was for The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun or any other relaxing tune.
Epidemiological disruptions inevitably affected teacher well-being, given the pressures of conducting online learning for four-year-olds and trying to turn away young people who have not been able to wear masks over the past 21 months.
She found solace in sharing her struggles with fellow teachers, book club with her friends, and taking her beloved companion, a husky named Jasper, for long walks.
She was resolute and did the best job possible in a really stressful time,” said Jennifer Carter, her slightly older twin sister.
The two sisters, along with their parents and younger brother, moved to Winnipeg from Ottawa in the mid-1980s for their father’s work. The twins attended the University of Manitoba to pursue teaching. While they share a lot in common, Carter is the extroverted twin and Wolf has been known to be more introverted.
Woolf was the only member of the family who prolonged and settled in Winnipeg, where she met the man who would become the father of her children and her husband for 15 years; Jeff Kirbison-Wolf maintained a friendship after their split.
Mia Kirbison said her mother was known to be welcoming, non-judgmental, and an “essential attendee” – so much so that the 24-year-old’s friends often looked to Wolff for advice.
After a busy fall, Mia, Alex and their mother plan to unwind during the holidays together, possibly with board games and horror movies. Wolf had already wrapped her children’s presents, some untouched under her Christmas tree.
In recent days, amidst a raw grief, Alex said he had found comfort in the pictures and ornaments of the cherubs that adorned his mother’s house.
“My mom has always loved angels. She goes as one for Halloween in her classroom, and she puts them all over her house,” the 21-year-old said. “In a way, she’s kind of become our Christmas angel.”
In a letter sent to the J.B. Mitchell community on Boxing Day, Director Paulette Huggins Wolff described a highly respected and much-loved teacher, “(who) will be remembered for her caring nature and great love for educating young children.”
Clinical support services staff from the department are expected to visit the elementary school in the new year to support the community in Haddad.