Edmonton

New public schools to bear names of Indigenous artist, education advocate and choir conductor

Future public schools in Edmonton will honour an Indigenous artist, an education advocate and a music teacher who conducted thousands of students.

Schools named after artist Alex Janvier and music teacher Garth Worthington will open in 2021

A middle school in the Glenwood neighbourhood will honour Alex Janvier from the Cold Lake First Nations. (Gabrielle Brown/Radio-Canada)

The names of new public schools in Edmonton will honour an Indigenous artist, an education advocate and a music teacher who conducted thousands of students.

Edmonton Public School Board revealed Monday that schools set to open in 2021 will be named after celebrated artist Alex Janvier, late music teacher Garth Worthington, and Aleda Patterson who founded the ABC Head Start preschool program in the 1980s.

Patterson, who attended the event with family, said she was thrilled by the honour and hoped the schools' names would inspire students.

"We hope that they'll take some notice and think 'Gee I'd like to do that someday'," said Patterson, who used to teach for the board and established what is now known as the Support Network and provides free family counselling.

The Aleda Patterson School for kindergarten to grade 3 students is at 165 St. and 91 Ave. (Gabrielle Brown/Radio-Canada)

The Aleda Patterson School is the first of its kind for the board — a kindergarten to Grade 3 school in the West Meadowlark Park neighbourhood where many young families live.

The nearby Alex Janvier School in the Glenwood neighbourhood will have an arts focus for students in Grade 4 to 9.

"I'd like them to become very successful in their effort of education," said Janvier, a member of the "Indian Group of Seven," who attended the event with his wife Jacqueline.

The candidates were narrowed down from nearly 160 nominations suggested by the community. 

"These three individuals really demonstrated the values, the commitment to education and to their community and the diversity that we wanted to make sure was reflected in the names of our schools," said board chair Michelle Draper.

Life lessons

Trustee Bridget Stirling was among the thousands of students who sang in Worthington's choirs and said the lessons went well beyond music.

"There were a lot of lessons about life," Stirling said. "A lot about you know perseverance. Talking about how everybody's important in the choir, everybody is part of the team that sometimes you need to fade back a little and sometimes let another voice shine."

Janvier said his message for students is to stay in school. He recalled how his own father instilled the importance of education in him when he decided to leave art school halfway through. 

"Then my dad gave me all the dirty jobs around the farm, you know cleaning this, cleaning that. Getting whipped by the cow with the tail full of something," Janvier chuckled.

'He said to me 'this is the life that you will lead because I've done that all my life. But you, he said, you have an opportunity to change. He said you go back to that school. You finish what you started. In real life, he said, you start something  — finish it'."

Janvier's dad drove him to the highway on a buggy where he caught the bus back to school and completed his four-year degree.  

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