Seven extraordinary volunteers received 2019 John Coskran Volunteer Awards in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 on May 9.
"Every year, I am amazed again by the tireless dedication of our Coskran Award winning volunteers," said Superintendent Cindy Amoroso. "We are extremely grateful that they share their time and talents to prepare our students to be future ready and to make our community strong."
All nominees were honored during a public reception from 5:30 to 6:20 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, at the Campus Cup Café at Diamondhead Education Center, 200 W. Burnsville Parkway. A brief program will take place at 6 p.m.
The awards were presented during the Board of Education meeting that began at 6:30 p.m. on the same evening, also at Diamondhead.
Recipients of the 2019 John Coskran Volunteer Award are:
Sara Negasi, a student at Burnsville High School, who has helped support community education as a volunteer at the front desk.
- Adam McDonald, who supports students one-on-one and through large events at Harriet Bishop
- Becky McGuire, who has connected community businesses to Harriet Bishop through the school’s SMART Fair
- Joey Pederson, who supports many programs at Rahn Elementary, including helping to organize Art Adventure with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Lin Topping, who volunteers as an instructor for the District 191 adult basic education program
Kate Quirk and Robyn Tousignant, art teachers at Burnsville High School, who volunteer their time to help community members and students make bowls for Bowls for BrainPower
This is the 18th year of the awards, which are named in honor of John Coskran, a long-time advocate for volunteerism who served 34 years at Catholic Charities and retired as associate director in 1993. Mr. Coskran, who also served as a member of the District 191 Board of Education, died in 2014.
For more information about the award or for information on how you can become a volunteer, go to the district website at www.isd191.org/volunteer.
Sara is a sophomore at Burnsville High School who volunteers her time through the Community Education Youth Development program. This year alone, she has volunteered more than 100 hours through the program.
She was nominated by Youth Development Coordinator Courtnee Jackson Floback, who raved about Sara’s contributions as a volunteer at the front desk for Community Education.
In that position, Sara is not only warm and professional, but she has also taken on a leadership role by training all of the incoming volunteers. Sara is known to be highly motivated and willing to help in any way she can, including providing translations, preparing classrooms for instructors, answering phone calls and simply being a friendly face to greet everyone visiting Diamondhead Education Center.
Courtnee noted that the office staff at community education regularly rave about how valuable Sara is as a member of their team.
Sara’s service also extends beyond District 191. This year, she has volunteered atRiver Valley Project Explore and the Minnesota Children's Museum.
Adam McDonald is a parent of three students at Harriet Bishop Elementary and one in preschool.
Nominated by teacher Staci Strowbridge, Adam is known for his passion and his ability to engage students in meaningful ways. Ms. Strowbridge wrote that “Regardless of the age or grade level of students he’s working with, he naturally engages brains and he teaches with patience and clarity.”
He volunteers to work with students directly for a full day each week. Combined with his work around events and clubs - including the school’s SMART Fair and Service Club - his estimated volunteer time for this year is around 200 hours.
Adam is also known for his willingness to help in any way that’s needed. Whether it’s intervention or enrichment, he quickly gets to know students and develops a positive relationship with them. Students look forward to their one-on-one or small group time with “Mr. Adam.”
Adam is supporting student learning at every level, helping preschoolers with color recognition, counting, sorting and turn taking; supporting students with literacy development by reading with them; and building relationships with students and encouraging them to try their best, celebrating their accomplishments.
He’s served as an ambassador of Harriet Bishop, for which he volunteers countless hours, and he positively represents the district to families that are considering enrolling their students at Harriet Bishop.
Becky McGuire is a parent of one student at Harriet Bishop Elementary and two at Eagle Ridge Middle School.
She has been involved in just about every volunteer opportunity there is at Harriet Bishop, including serving in leadership on the school’s Parent Teacher Organization; co-leading the Hornet Hop school dance; volunteering for Art Adventure, International Night and carnivals; and supporting Staff Appreciation, Breakfast with a Book, Service Club events, field trips, Friday Folders and other classroom/teacher needs.
One of the places where Becky has had the most impact is with the Harriet Bishop SMART Fair Expo. She helps involve the community in the event and keeps families engaged at the event by organizing businesses and groups that are involved with Science, Math, Technology, Music, Art to present or provide activities during the fair.
Ms. Staci Strowbridge, the teacher in charge of the SMART Fair, praised Becky’s work to organize those partners and said “Becky always has a smile on her face and a positive attitude. She's constantly willing to help out and contributes in numerous ways.”
To add to her list of volunteering, Becky is coordinating the 5th Grade Send-off Party and is helping with collecting pictures for this event. She also volunteers at Eagle Ridge, including as a science fair judge.
Becky was nominated by District 191 employee Jennifer Deshaw who wrote: “Having Becky at Harriet Bishop is a blessing! Her ‘let’s do it’ attitude and ability to work together with others is what makes her shine. She cares about her fellow parents and invests her time and energy into not only her children but all the students throughout the school.”
Burnsville High School graduate Joey Pederson, who is now a mother of a 4th grader at Rahn Elementary and a 6th grader at Metcalf Middle School, is not only an amazing volunteer within our school district, but she is also an active member of the Burnsville community.
Joey has given herself fully to the Rahn community for the past 7 years in what seems like an endless number of ways. She has been the yearbook advisor for that entire time, using her skills as a photographer and her endless energy to capture countless moments throughout the school year. Joey is all about inclusion when it comes to the yearbook. She wants to make sure all students are represented.
Joey has also been a big advocate for chess both at Rahn and within the district. She can often be seen with her camera at chess tournaments snapping photos and encouraging students. Joey has not only had children in chess club, but she has also helped as an advisor to keep chess club running at Rahn.
At the school, Joey helps in the classroom; acts as chaperone for field trips; helps provide food for teachers during conferences and staff appreciation week; provides carnival help; supports Brainpower in a Backpack; and has also volunteered as a science fair judge. Anytime someone is needed, she is there to help!
She showed that willing, volunteer spirit again this year by joining the school’s small Art Adventure group of parent volunteers, which helps bring art and its history to the classroom in partnership with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. She also took on a new Bake Sale that coincided with Election Day, engaging the entire community in helping to support and better understand Rahn.
Lin Topping became a volunteer with Adult Basic Education in the fall of 2016, and over the past three years, she has logged more than 600 hours of official volunteer time, as well as hundreds of hours of “unofficial” time, meeting with students outside of the standard class times.
Lin currently volunteers two days a week. She stays all day and even uses her lunch break to tutor students who need extra help.
Lin has volunteered in several levels of morning ESL, a computer skills class, a reading and writing afternoon class, and an evening class at Hidden Valley to teach English to parents of District 191 elementary students.
It’s not just Lin’s devotion of time to the ABE program and students that makes her stand out. It’s her willingness to help every student she can, and her patience and kindness that give students the extra boost of confidence they need to continue their studies, even with busy schedules and home lives. Lin takes time to connect with each student and intuitively knows how to best help them learn. She frequently connects their home lives to the skill they are learning, making it comfortable and fun.
ABE teacher Susan Edmonson, who nominated Lin for this award, said: “Many of our students are new to the country and a welcoming, kind, patient soul like Lin, being in the classroom with them, is exactly what they need to feel at ease in their new home.”
Kate Quirk and Robyn Tousignant
Kate Quirk and Robyn Tousignant are art teachers at Burnsville High School. This year they served as pottery experts for the annual Bowls for BrainPower event, which raises money to provide weekend food for our students through the BrainPower in a Backpack program.
Taking on this responsibility, Kate and Robyn have spent countless hours – on weekends, before and after school, and during breaks – working with students and community members to create, glaze and fire hundreds of bowls in support of Bowls for BrainPower event in April.
Kate and Robyn were in charge of this year’s Potter’s All Calls, weekend events where members of the community are invited into the high school to learn how to make bowls, mugs and even bird houses. One of those “all call” events coincided with the first Burnsville Family Fest, meaning hundreds of community members were in school at the same time. They stepped up and provided a demonstration on the main stage, showing what Bowls and pottery making is all about.
Kate and Robyn also are responsible for coordinating the student Bowls team. The Bowls team meets on designated Tuesdays after school in the Art Wing, where students learn how to make and glaze bowls.
And then finally, the pair oversaw the annual Bowls for BrainPower on April 11, welcoming the public to the event and showing off all the hard work in support of BrainPower in a BackPack, raising more than $17,000 this year. Without their generosity and skills as artists and teachers, this project would not be possible.