Leader, educator honored by school board, council

A city councilwoman, schoolteacher, Langley resident, early proponent of salmon education and the Maxwelton Outdoor Classroom. An appreciator of the arts. Wife, mother, grandmother and friend.

South Whidbey resident Rene Neff died April 22 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.

During a teleconference meeting Monday, Langley City Council held a moment of silence to remember Neff.

“She taught the town’s children and was a vital source of inspiration in the arts and social justice communities,” Mayor Tim Callison said in an email.

Langley Library Garden was recently commemorated after her, in a decision approved by the council to honor her memory.

The South Whidbey School Board also held a moment of silence at its business meeting last week. Board member Brook Willeford is a former student of Neff.

“Rene Neff was a career educator who left a legacy of excellence,” Willeford said April 29.

“She inspired generations of students, parents and fellow educators to look outside the box and find different ways to engage the learning process,” Willeford said.

Neff was instrumental in starting the outdoor classroom as a way to encourage salmon spawning in Maxwelton Creek.

The school board approved a change in the name of the Maxwelton Outdoor Classroom to the Rene Neff Outdoor Classroom at a previous meeting.

Neff also helped form the Maxwelton Salmon Adventure, now known as Whidbey Watershed Stewards, a Whidbey nonprofit promoting watershed stewardship, habitat enhancement and environmental education.

She was a founding member of the Island Shakespeare Festival and Langley Main Street Association.

Neff resigned in 2017 from the city council after falling ill. She said she wanted to spend more time with family and focus on her role as president of Island Shakespeare Festival.

As a city council member, Neff was unafraid to express her views. She fought hard for her fellow council members to approve the drafting of an “inclusive city” ordinance back in 2017 during her final term on the council.