Former Echo Park teacher honored at Alimagnet Park
A former longtime Echo Park Elementary educator is being honored through a visible memorial at Alimagnet Park in Burnsville, Minn.
A small group of family, former colleagues and friends of the late Mark Reinsmoen gathered to privately dedicate a memorial bicycle rack at the park on the one-year anniversary of his death, Saturday, Nov. 7. The bike rack was erected in early November in front of the concession building.
He was one of the original teachers when the Burnsville school opened in 1979, and he taught there until 2007. Former staff member and friend Vonnie Kahnert said the school was still in the building process when it welcomed the staff through its doors. Some teachers were settled into classrooms that needed finishing touches and others were gathered in sectioned off parts of the gym, outside the music room or corners of the library while the construction was being finished.
“Mark was part of the glue that brought the teachers and staff together. All staff knew Mark. The staff loved Mark for his steady demeanor, and as the one who could bring comic relief to any situation,” Kahnert said. “The children loved him because they felt safe and because they were given emotional support, boundaries, and encouragement—which all students need to thrive. The parents loved and respected him for the education and sincere care he gave their children. He was extraordinary in many, many ways.”
‘Everyone’s favorite teacher’ his wife, Dianne, said Mark grew up on a farm in Joice, Iowa, and is a graduate of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He taught high school English for two years in New Hampton, Iowa, before being drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War.
He later received his elementary teaching training at the University of Minnesota. He taught at two other Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan schools—Parkview Elementary and Diamond Path Elementary in addition to Echo Park, where he retired from. He has one son, Matthew, a daughter, Rachel, a step-daughter, Tara and six grandchildren, Ethan, Reece, Bennett, Scott, Abram and Lindsay, Dianne said.
Beth Wakefield, one of Mark’s friends and colleagues, said he was one of those people that made others see the best in themselves, no matter what their age.
“He was a role-model to us all, and an incredible mentor to his students and fellow staff members,” she said. “He was someone that made you want to always do better, and be better—he looked for the gifts in each of us, and held us to high standards. He encouraged us all.”
According to Wakefield, Mark was a teacher that his students remembered for the rest of their lives. He attended every sports event, musical, performance or other activities his students were involved in, no matter how long ago they attended Echo Park. He was often invited to graduation parties, weddings or other important life events for his former students.
“Mark was everyone’s favorite teacher,” she said.
He died Nov. 7, 2019, after battling prostate cancer for more than 13 years, his obituary says.
Mark was known for his love of bicycling, and friends called him the “Bike Viking.” After his death, Wakefield wanted to find a way to memorialize him. She had an idea of a bicycle shaped bike rack to be installed at the Echo Park playground and many of Mark’s friends, former colleagues and students donated toward the cost of the bike rack and memorial plaque.
However, the memorial’s location was moved to Alimagnet Park when they learned District 196 prohibits permanent memorials on school grounds. Burnsville Parks and Recreation Director Garrett Beck approved the park location, Wakefield said.
“It turned out to be the perfect location, as Mark used to celebrate the end of the school year with his fourth graders at the park, and even held his retirement party there. It’s in a place where anyone from the community can see it and remember him,” Wakefield said.