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Bonnie Martin with Charlie, one of her three children, at their home in La Crescent.

Giving up her free time to help the students of the La Crescent-Hokah School District comes naturally to Bonnie Martin.

She’s the winner of the 2018 Friend of Education Award, which was presented at last month’s La Crescent-Hokah Staff Celebration.

“It’s a little uncomfortable to get the award because I don’t feel any more deserving than anyone else,” she said, but many people would disagree.

Karn Schwartzhoff, early childhood coordinator and 3k teacher at La Crescent-Hokah nominated Martin for the award.

“She is oh so talented but oh so humble,” Schwartzhoff wrote about Martin when she nominated her for the award. “She leads and serves with grace and enthusiasm. She is a true friend of education.”

Martin is president of La Crescent-Hokah Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization. Her husband Scott Martin teaches industrial technology in the district’s middle and high school.

The couple, who have three young children, moved to La Crescent about six years ago from La Crosse and Martin quickly got involved with the PTO.

She remembers that the group at the first PTO meeting she attended wasn’t as big as she hoped it would be. But since then, the group has grown and changed some of the ways it operates.

The biggest change in how the PTO works came about four years ago, Martin said, when the group decided that instead of having several smaller fundraisers every year it should just have one big fundraiser. That event is the annual Great Green Run and Roll Fundraiser and the change has proven to be a success.

“That’s been really amazing to be a part of,” Martin said. “It promotes school spirit and it promotes healthy living and it provides funds for everything the PTO does.”

Martin added, “Our goal is just to have this one fundraiser a year so we aren’t constantly asking for money and so we thought this was a neat way to do that.”

The first year the PTO decided to focus its fundraising on the event, the group was “pretty nervous,” Martin admits.

“But that first year the kids raised almost $20,000, which was significantly more than what they had been raising with the pizza sales and magazine sales in the past,” she said.

The PTO has been steadily raising money to build a big new playground at the elementary school over recent years. The entire project is expected to cost up to $100,000 and with the collaboration of the district, and the Rotary and Lions clubs, will be built this year.

Martin said she also likes that the PTO puts funds toward paying for class trips for the elementary school that broaden the horizons of students.

The link between school and community, especially in smaller towns like La Crescent, is vital, Martin said and she sees her role as a way to solidify that connection.

“It’s really not a question for me,” Martin said when asked why she gives up so much time to help the district. “I guess it just feels like the right thing to do.”

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