Effort underway to rename Port Alberni school after popular former teacher

WatchIt has been just days since a popular Port Alberni resident and former teacher died, but there's already a movement underway to rename a school after him.

It has been just days since a popular Port Alberni resident and former teacher died, but there’s already a movement underway to rename a school after him.

Winston Joseph, a long-time teacher in the Alberni Valley, died over the weekend at the age of 89, leaving behind four children among a large extended family.

Many of Joseph’s students and friends say he profound impact on not only themselves but the entire community and are now calling for A.W. Neill Elementary, a controversially named school where he taught, to be renamed in his honour.

“I thought what better honour than to name that school after him,” said Gloria Baird, who initiated renaming A.W. Neil after Joseph. “The man was so so popular in this community.”

Joseph first came to Port Alberni in the early 1960s in order to complete his student-teacher practicum and never left. He would go on to teach students in the community for decades, first at A.W. Neill Elementary and then at Alberni District Secondary.

“He taught people’s parents and then taught the children of their parents like he went all the way through this community to the point that when dad was retiring we were receiving phone calls from parents saying if ‘Mr. Joseph could teach just one more year. I’ve got one more kid coming through,'” recalled his daughter, Janis Joseph.

He wasn’t just a teacher, Joseph organized folk fest, was involved in Toastmasters, the Knights of Columbus, the Lions, his church, and the group Food and Philosophy. He also was a newspaper columnist.

“Service is the rent we pay for living on this earth and I think he is a person who epitomizes that quote,” said Tom McEvay, a long-time friend and former colleague.

Renaming A.W. Neill Elementary in honour of Winston Joseph is a good idea, says McEvay.

“He taught there many years. Many of the students that went to that school could probably say my favourite teacher at A.W. Neill was Mr. Joseph which I hear is often the refrain from A.D.S.S. students,” he said.

A.W. Neill was a Member of Parliament, who helped establish the first residential school in the Alberni Valley. In 2020, School District 70 voted to rename the school but hasn’t decided on what that will be just yet.

Joseph’s daughter says while his family didn’t come up with the idea it would be fitting.

“I mean we’re just pleased as punch that people would be there and have this idea and the positiveness that everybody has been talking about it,” said Janis.

Renaming the school is expected to be raised with the school board in the coming days.

Many in Port Alberni are calling for A.W. Neill Elementary to be renamed after Winston Joseph, a beloved teacher who taught at the school and recently passed away. (Kendall Hanson/CHEK News)

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