Kudos for the Buddy Bench

It’s the little things that make our community better

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Jill Rasmussen, daughter of the late Joi Rasmussen, left, sits with family friend and Cooper Elementary third-grader, Caleb Huse, 9, on a Buddy Bench outside of Cooper Monday afternoon. The bench is dedicated in memory of Joi Rasmussen, who served as a special education teacher in the Fort Dodge Community School District for about 35 years.

A black metal bench near the playground at Cooper Elementary School stands as a lasting tribute to a teacher who believed a child should never be left out by their peers.

It’s a called a Buddy Bench. It serves a purpose beyond just being a place to sit for awhile.

When a child takes a seat on a Buddy Bench, they’re sending a signal that they’re lonely. Cooper Elementary School students have been advised that when they see someone sitting on the bench, they ought to approach that student and invite them to join in whatever activities are going on at the playground.

The bench is a tribute to Joi Rasmussen, a special education teacher who worked for the Fort Dodge Community School District for about 35 years. She retired in 2017 and died earlier this year.

Those who knew and worked with Rasmussen know she would approve of the Buddy Bench.

“That was in her heart — having all students included in everything,” Sharon Moser, a retired Fort Dodge educator, said during a recent dedication for the bench.

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

The bench was made by industrial technology students at Fort Dodge Senior High School taught by Andy Kavanaugh.

We believe the Buddy Bench is a fitting memorial to Joi Rasmussen.

The bench ensures that her legacy of dedication to her students will never be forgotten.

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