Mandan band teacher says farewell after 40-year career

Good Day Dakota

Every year, students say goodbye to some of the most influential people in their lives: their teachers.
Since the pandemic hit, those goodbyes did not go the way they were expected to — even more so for teachers in their final year before retirement.

19 staff members of the Mandan Public School District will be saying farewell this year, but not the way they wanted to.
I spoke with Band Director Rebecca Warren, who says she never imagined this would be how she spent her last year.
But it’s her last 40 years of memories that make it all worth it.

Warren says, “I started in the band when I was in the 6th grade and I started playing the trumpet because I had an uncle that played trumpet.”

By the time Warren was in seventh grade she knew wanted to pursue a career in music.

“I grew up in the 70’s and graduated high school in 76′, so there weren’t many female band directors, but it never occurred to me I couldn’t do it,” says Warren, “And that’s what I decided I wanted to do and I did it.”

As you can tell by the southern accent, Warren isn’t originally from North Dakota. She spent 28 years of her life teaching band in Alabama. Warren ended up meeting her now-husband at a band convention, who happened to live right here in the Peace Garden State.

“Neither one of us had been married before, married to the band room. Kind of a match made in heaven.”

Warren has been at Mandan Middle School for 12 years now and says it was an easy adjustment leaving the south to come up north.

“People would ask me what are the people like in North Dakota and I would tell them they are southerners without the accent.”

Aaron Fields: “Do you say you betcha yet or I’spose?”

Rebecca Warren says, “You betcha maybe, but I have let a uffda slip every now and then.”

Accents and slang aside, Warren tells me of her most meaningful moments as a teacher.

“It’s not the big performances, it’s not the big festivals–it’s the day to day watching a student that didn’t maybe get it yesterday– and get it today,” says Warren, “and watching their progress, and watch how they grow and develop as musicians and more importantly watch how they grow as people.”

While Mrs. Warren grew up a southerner, she’s been able to touch the lives of so many people right here in North Dakota.

Co-worker and Band Director for Mandan Middle School, Sara Baumann says, “I’m just forever grateful for having the opportunity to ever having to get to work with her. It was one of the best things that have ever happened to me both professionally and personally.”

Although she never imagined a pandemic to happen at all during her last year, she wants her students to stay positive and know this isn’t a final goodbye.

Warren says, “No matter what–no matter how much time it takes we will get through this–and know you have blessed my life for allowing me to be apart of your life. I love you all and I’m going to miss you–but I will be seeing you.”

She adds when the days get tough to make sure you look at the faces of the children as a reminder why you are doing what you do.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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