On Monday, May 30, after making Granite Falls her home for the past 20 years, Rita Strand left Granite Falls.

She left with husband and former Yellow Medicine East Superintendent Dwayne in tow; bound for their new home in Chanhassen. On the way, Strand—who has spent the last 18 years serving as a special education teacher for the Minnesota Valley Cooperative Center at YME—had one final stop to make.

“Before I left,” said Strand. “I went and visited some former students at the (Second Time Around) thrift shop and they were the last people I said goodby to before I left town.”


On Monday, May 30, after making Granite Falls her home for the past 20 years, Rita Strand left Granite Falls.
She left with husband and former Yellow Medicine East Superintendent Dwayne in tow; bound for their new home in Chanhassen. On the way, Strand—who has spent the last 18 years serving as a special education teacher for the Minnesota Valley Cooperative Center at YME—had one final stop to make.
“Before I left,” said Strand. “I went and visited some former students at the (Second Time Around) thrift shop and they were the last people I said goodby to before I left town.”
Rarely, do most teachers, spend more than a year with a particular student. Yet, for Strand, as a special education teacher, she spent as many as eight years with some of her students. And living in a small community like Granite Falls, Strand has been lucky enough to see several of her students enfolded into this community.  
“It’s so good to see them working in the community,” said Strand. “And I think Granite Falls is very fortunate to have something like (the Second Time Around store, who employs handicapped individuals) where they are productive members of society.”
Leaving those students now, “Is bittersweet,” says Strand, who has spent the past 35 years teaching in one form or the other.
“All I’ve ever done is teach. I wouldn’t have stayed in it as long as I have if I didn’t look forward to seeing my students start new chapters in their lives. One of my biggest joys has been watching them grow up.”
At a May YME School Board meeting, Strand was approved for an extended leave of absence so she could rejoin Dwayne at their home in the cities after commuting between Granite Falls and Chanhassen for the past year.
She says that after some time off, she plans to continue teaching in the Twin Cities area. Dwayne has been the interim superintendent at Ivanhoe since 2008.
Rita Strand began her teaching career as an elementary teacher and after brief stints in both Ivanhoe and Tyler, she taught for 15 years at Marshall’s Holy Redeemer School.
Yet in 1990, when the Strands moved to Granite Falls after Dwayne accepted the Principle position at Bert Raney Elementry, Rita decided to make a change.   
“When we moved to Granite, I was still teaching in Marshall and I wanted to teach in the community we lived in. That’s when I went back to school to become a special education teacher.”
Regardless of the position, teachers always teach. So, for Strand teaching has been a dream come true.   
“I always wanted to be a teacher. There was no doubt that’s what I wanted to do when I was growing up. Education was my dream and I’ve been lucky enough to follow that dream for the past 35 years,” said Strand.
The Strands raised two children in Granite Falls, Ryan and Leah (Santer), and were continually involved in not only school activities, but also with community groups and the faith community at St. Andrews Catholic Church.
But as always, it was Strand’s work with her special education students that was the most satisfying.
Said Strand, “We work with these students from birth to the age of 21. We see it all from when they start to when they leave. I’ve worked with some students for as long as eight years and we’ve formed a real close relationship. These last few years it’s been real special watching these kids graduate after they overcome their cognitive and physical difficulties. Seeing them enter the next phase of their life is heartwarming.”