Lake Country Faces: Pequot Lakes High School secretary earns Local 284 RISE Award

Robin Olson has been instrumental in Local 284's contract negotiations

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Pequot Lakes High School secretary Robin Olson, center, receives the RISE Award on Friday, March 31, 2023.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

PEQUOT LAKES — Pequot Lakes High School secretary Robin Olson has earned the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award as Local 284 Member of the Year.

The Brainerd native has worked in the school district since 2012, first as a paraprofessional at Eagle View Elementary School before becoming the school’s attendance secretary in 2021 and then shifting to the high school in November 2022.

Prior to becoming a full-time employee of the district, she served as a substitute teacher.

“I love working with the kids,” Olson said. “Just the satisfaction of seeing kids learn — pulling them out every day to work with them (as a paraprofessional) and then seeing the progress they make, that is a big satisfaction for me. There are some kids that I just made such a connection with.”

She also praised her coworkers, describing the group as being “so much like a family.”


The RISE Award was created by Congress in 2019 and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education. This award honors classified school employees who provide exemplary service to their school communities.

“It's certainly not a wonder that Robin Olson is the recipient of the RISE Award, making her coworkers and staff members proud to be Patriots,” Eagle View Elementary School secretary Carrie Chiodi said in an email. “She has been a long-time nurturing, effective and exemplary employee of ISD No. 186.”

Olson has been a part of Local 284's last three negotiations with the district, and she served a key part in the union reaching a deal with the district last October, narrowly avoiding a strike by support staff.

She said those negotiation efforts made the support staff much more tightly knit.

“It was amazing to see,” Olson said. “We had gone from maybe 60% membership to over 90% because we all pulled together. We have been together now long enough and we just all supported each other, came together and just stayed strong as a unit. I think you can only do that if you really have that family-type relationship.”

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She lives in the area with her husband of 31 years. They have three sons and one grandson.

Olson said she was shocked to find out she was the recipient of the RISE Award, but is very excited to have won the award. She will now travel to Washington, D.C., at the end of April to receive it.

“I was nominated by coworkers, and I think that it really solidified for me how much they appreciated the work that we did,” she said. “This award is more of a group award to me. I know that I am the recipient, but to me we all earned it. The entire bargaining team and the entire unit of 284 earned this award by standing strong, fighting for what we needed and we believed we deserved.”


She was honored for her efforts in a gathering at Eagle View Elementary School on Friday, March 31.

“Robin has served her Local 284 coworkers a number of times in contract negotiations, and most recently by being instrumental in settling a very successful contract in early November for ISD No. 186's custodians, paraprofessionals, nurses, kitchen staff and secretaries, all of whom are grateful for her tireless efforts,” Chiodi said.

Dan Determan, sports writer/staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5879 or . Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at .

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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