Imsande to leave NYM School District after 27 years

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Rebecca Imsande will be leaving the New York Mills School District after 26 years as a music teacher. She will begin a new position in Osakis in the fall.

By Tucker Henderson


As the world whispered of scandal in Buckingham Palace, teenagers talked about the newest Nintendo video game system, and the Hubble Space Telescope photographed Pluto for the first time, New York Mills was welcoming a new choir teacher to the district. One that would outlast all of those topics of conversation in 1996.

Rebecca Imsande joined the NY Mills School faculty after six years at the Pelican Rapids and Rothsay Public Schools.

“I started in January of 1990 in Pelican Rapids,” reminisced Imsande. “I was there for two years and then I was in Rothsay for four.”

Though teaching began early on in Imsande’s life, it wasn’t always her plan for her future.

“Up through my junior year of high school, I was going to be a physical therapist,” said Imsande. “I was headed into that. I was a pretty good student, I liked sports, so I thought I’d go into physical therapy. I candy-striped at the Lake Region Hospital in the physical therapy department. Then I had to make a choice in my junior year. I had to decide: anatomy or art.

“I was actually into painting and drawing, probably even more than music when I was in high school,” she continued. “I taught guitar lessons from the time I was 16, I had my own studio at Royalson Music, so I started teaching early, and I loved that.”

As Imsande contemplated the predicament, she decided there was still enough time for both art and anatomy.

“In school, I actually really liked painting and I thought, there is no way I was going to not take art. I said, ‘oh, I’ll take anatomy next year.’ In the back of my head, I said, ‘no, you won’t,’” laughed Imsande. “When I hit Fergus Falls Community College, I kept going with music and enjoyed that. I got more involved in theater once I hit college. I liked it and I kind of stuck with it. I’ve never looked back.”

Imsande continued on to complete her Bachelors of Science in Music Education from Bemidji State University in 1989 and has more recently attained her Master of Music Education from North Dakota State University.

“I can’t imagine,” said Imsande of a career in physical therapy. “I frankly don’t like hospitals and I would have a horrible bed side manner. I love the kids and I love seeing them have fun with music.”

During her tenure in NY Mills, Imsande has coached speech and held the role of drama advisor in addition to her position as the choir teacher.

“I started doing musicals back in Pelican Rapids,” she said. “I did children’s theater. That was really my first musical theater production because I was an athlete, so I didn’t get to be involved in a ton in high school. I went to Fergus Falls, so it was big enough that I had to make a choice. When I went to Rothsay, I was part of the musical team and we ran that and when I came here, I picked it up and did it for many years.”

A few of the highlights over the years included the musical productions that Imsande had the chance to be a part of at the school.

“Some of the bigger theater productions, I think those have been fun because I always wanted to make sure that in every production, the kids learned something new,” Imsande said. “A new stage technique, lighting, or a bigger set, how we did set design, so Mary Poppins and Thoroughly Modern Millie and some of the big ones like that, those are definite highlights, I love those.”

Even though she enjoyed the bigger productions, Imsande took time away from the stage when her children were busy with activities of their own. 

“I took a few years off here and there when my kids were super busy,” she said. “Once Spence hit seventh grade, I went back into the speech and musicals. When I moved to Alexandria, when Sid graduated, we did a big Mary Poppins production and it was a good time for me to step away and let somebody else take the reins. I miss that a lot. I miss doing theater, it’s fun. A lot of long hours, but it’s fun.”

Coaching speech was also a big part of Imsande’s life during her time in NY Mills.

“I always loved speech,” she said. “I used to coach the team for many years. Taking the kids to nationals and seeing the kids going to state in speech. That’s always a highlight, so that’s been fun.”

Other favorite memories aren’t as thrilling, but they still hold a special place in Imsande’s heart.

“Sometimes the highlights, they’re not exciting, but when you have a chance to connect with a student who is struggling with something and you can help and just be there for them,” she said. “They’re comfortable with you after so many years that they’re able to talk about it and get through it.

“Just seeing the kids grow,” she added. “It’s so much fun, seeing them from preschool and then I see them as they’re graduating, or as parents. There’s nothing like it. It’s amazing to see it come full circle, that’s the best. That’s something I’ll miss, a lot. I’ll miss these elementary kids graduating and I’m used to seeing that.”

One of the largest highlights, however, comes from the work that the students put into their musical education.

“It happened just today,” she said. “I had to talk to some students and we’re rehearsing for the graduation piece. My students set it up and they didn’t need me to come and start them. They were just fine, they did it on their own. They were confident and when I see my kids get involved in musical events and they’re confident, that’s always a highlight. Because they enjoy it, so they want to be a part of it, and their skills that they’ve gained in class, they feel that they can do it, that they can handle it.

“Even when the sixth and fifth graders sometimes write our own plays, and we do these big events and concerts, and they’re confident and they sing out and they’re proud of what they’re doing,” she said. “There’s nothing like when you get to our programs at night and they are so proud and so excited. That makes it all worth it. They’re just beaming. Even the older kids, you can see there’s an excitement. They’re still excited to work together and show their parents and the audience what they’ve been doing.

“When the kids are proud of what they’ve done and they’ve accomplished something, that’s the best highlight,” said Imsande.

Imsande is not finished with her teaching career. In the fall, she will start a new job in Osakis, Minn. which is about a 15 minute drive from her home, rather than the 50 plus minutes to NY Mills.

“I really like curriculum, so I’m looking forward to digging into some curriculum and really working on scope and sequence,” said Imsande. “It’s kindergarten through eighth grade, so making sure that I’ve got the vocal skills as well as the music theory and literacy down. I’ve got some different training that I’ve gotten through my grad program and I’m looking forward to just exploring that more. I think my schedule will be a little more conducive and my class size will be more conducive to some of that.”

Though she will miss the relationships she has built at NY Mills School, Imsande is excited about the new adventure awaiting her in the fall. 

“Change is good,” said Imsande of her new position. “I always had somebody else teach my own kids voice, not just me, because they just hear me. As many times as I can get kids out to go to honor choir or work with other directors, I do because everybody hears things a little differently. Just like every artist can sculpt the same piece and each sculpture will be slightly different. Thats what makes the arts, whether it’s music or art or dance, so exciting.

“The main thing is that the kids leave school, hopefully, having some great memories of their concerts and their time in music class,” she said. “I realize not everybody is into music, but that they can look back and say, ‘I understand and I appreciate the skills and I had some fun.’”

While Imsande’s drive will be considerably shorter, she will miss the community she has called home for almost three decades as well as the substantial friendships she’s made over the years.

“It’s going to be hard to leave the kids and the people here, super hard. I’m definitely melancholy and sad about going,” she said. “It’ll be tough, but it will be good for the kids too. It will be fun to see how the next teacher creates with the students. That will be fun and hopefully I’ll be a positive influence and do some new creations for the Osakis School.”