Victor Cooper Honored for Leadership and Service to Children with Special Needs

Victor Cooper C'89

CHICAGO, IL (April 13, 2007) – Next Tuesday, the Northern Suburban Special Education District (NSSED) Association of Parents and Staff will present the Dave Peterson Possibilities Award to Washburn Middle School teacher Victor Cooper C'89. One of NSSED's 2006-07 Best Practice Awards, this honor recognizes outstanding individuals that promote understanding and inclusion of children with special needs, and applauds those showing leadership and innovation in areas such as advocacy, partnership, and support.

North Park alumnus Victor Cooper was nominated by Diane Siebrasse, mother of Laurel Siebrasse, one of Cooper's former students. Cooper was Laurel’s physical education teacher several years ago when the current New Trier High School student was in seventh and eighth grades. Siebrasse credits her daughter's track career, as well as its accompanying self-esteem and sense of accomplishment, to Cooper's influence. "If he hadn't believed in her, she wouldn't be doing all that she is today."

Cooper's involvement with Laurel was influential in his own life, as well. When asked by that year's yearbook committee to name the highlight of his year, Cooper is quoted as saying, "Seeing Laurel Siebrasse cross the finish line in track." When Laurel's mom heard about the Dave Peterson Possibilities Award, she knew "it was Victor in a nutshell. He sees what kids are capable of and believes in them." To support her own belief in Cooper, Siebrasse points to the unanimous vote for his selection as this year's award winner, as well as the fact that he is the first non-special education teacher to be chosen for the honor to date.

Siebrasse had no problem gathering the requisite letters of support for Cooper's nomination. Beloved by so many for his positive, upbeat nature, Cooper's appreciation for "the impact self-esteem has on a child's ability to be physically active, and the use of sports and athletics to achieve positive things" has been lauded by innumerable students (to whom he is know as "Coop" or "Mr. Coop"), parents, co-workers, administrators, and the North Shore community as a whole.

Former chair of the North Park Board of Trustees Rev. Arthur A. R. Nelson A'52 C'54 S'60 knew Cooper throughout his North Park years and even performed his marriage ceremony. Nelson describes Cooper as "a young man with a sometimes difficult childhood, in terms of the neighborhood in which he lived and the opportunities available to him. He came to North Park and, because of his wonderful personality, dedication, and abilities, he blossomed.”

Nelson recalls Cooper as a North Park track and field star who was influenced by the late Ted Hedstrand A’39 C’41. He was "much more than a coach" to Cooper, taking him on canoe trips in Minnesota and "nurturing Victor's skills as a runner, but also as a human being."

After graduation from North Park in 1989, Cooper assumed positions in education where he earned the immediate love and respect of his students and their parents. In Nelson's estimation, Cooper "has continued to be an example of the best of what it means to be human and loving, and to care for other people."

The Dave Peterson Possibilities Award will be presented to Victor Cooper on Tuesday at a 9:30 a.m. ceremony at the New Trier Northfield Campus in Building C (7 Happ Road, Northfield), Board Room C234. Space is limited, so please R.S.V.P. to Karen Noonan, NSSED director of programs, at (847) 831-5100, ext. 210.