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In Memory: Buddy Bench Dedicated in Honor of Late Special Ed Teacher - from The Messenger

May 21, 2019

Jill Rasmussen sits with student on bench honoring her mom

Joi Rasmussen, a longtime special education teacher, never wanted any student to feel excluded, according to those who knew and worked with her.

“Having her students be included,” said Sharon Moser, a retired Fort Dodge educator. “That was in her heart — having all students included in everything.”

Rasmussen worked in the Fort Dodge Community School District for about 35 years. She retired from Cooper Elementary School in 2017.

Rasmussen passed away earlier this year at age 60.

On Monday afternoon, Moser along with Lana Wagner, a retired teacher, and Sue Scott, a retired secretary, organized a Buddy Bench dedication to honor Rasmussen’s service to the district.

students sit in grass during Buddy Bench dedication

The dedication was held near the playground at Cooper.

A Buddy Bench is a place for a student to go if they are feeling lonely or don’t have anyone to play with.

Other students will then include that student in their activities.

The bench was made by Andy Kavanaugh’s industrial technology class at Fort Dodge Senior High.

“If you see someone sitting on this bench and they could use a friend, be that friend,” Moser said to a group of students. “She made everyone she met feel like a friend.”

Wagner said she taught for 12 years with Rasmussen.

“Joi started when some of the ADA students were not part of the public schools,” Wagner said. “She had a huge heart for children and adults alike. Some of her students called her Mama Joi.”

Scott described Rasmussen’s personality.

“She had a very happy, outgoing look,” Scott said. “She made everyone feel comfortable and included.”

Rasmussen’s husband, Robert Rasmussen, and daughter, Jill Rasmussen, were on hand for the dedication.

Bruce Hartley speaks next to Buddy Bench on Cooper playground

“She was one of the most loving people,” Jill Rasmussen said. “She cared about everyone. She would give the shirt off of her back.”

Jill Rasmussen is a third-grade teacher at Southeast Webster Grand Elementary School in Dayton.

She hopes to be the type of teacher her mother was.

“I strive to be as good as she was,” Jill Rasmussen said.

Bruce Hartley, Cooper Elementary School principal, said Joi Rasmussen was “one of the most caring teachers we ever had.”

He added, “The Buddy Bench is the kind of thing Joi would have loved.”

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