Rimpila returns to area classrooms in new venture with PartnerShip 4 Health

By Tucker Henderson


Although he transferred from teaching elementary students to driving them to school each day, Jeff Rimpila hasn’t retired from teaching students about the importance of physical education.  

Through bus driving, Rimpila has opened up his schedule so that he’s able to devote more time to the New York Mills School District’s outdoor education opportunities including the shared bike fleet with the Henning School District.  

“We got a grant from MnDOT five years ago and PartnerShip 4 Health has paid me now this fall to go around to other schools and help get them going,” said Rimpila. “To try to get schools to utilize the fleets more. Last week I helped Henning with their fourth graders. We watched a video, did some safety training, and went around town with them.”  

Henning recently had their first session with the bike fleet and students learned everything from safety rules to signaling.

  “Henning had it for about a week and a half, they hadn’t used them yet,” he said. “I went down to help them. Otherwise, the fleet is kept here (in NY Mills).”

Between Battle Lake, Henning, NY Mills, Perham and Rothsay, PartnerShip 4 Health has bike fleets across the county to help educate students on outdoor education and the safety of riding a bike. Other schools in the area don’t have the same opportunities to have their own, but the NY Mills/Henning bike fleet is available for use of other schools in the region thanks to the PartnerShip 4 Health organization who made it possible.

Blaine Novak, superintendent of NY Mills Schools, has presented the idea with Rimpila to local schools such as Sebeka and Wadena to rent the fleet. Rimpila would be paid a nominal amount for his time and a rental fee to cover maintenance on the bike fleet would be charged, but otherwise schools would be able to have the educational opportunity available.

“Just trying to get them out there and utilize the bike fleet more and get kids on bikes,” said Rimpila. “Stuff they can do the rest of their lives, just lifetime fitness.”

Rimpila said that the safety lessons cover a wide range of topics including riding on the highway, riding with traffic, making eye contact with other drivers, keeping distractions away while riding, being aware of one’s surroundings, and watching out for potholes, to name a few.

“A lot of them have never ridden bikes with two brakes on them, or brakes at all on the handlebars,” said Rimpila. “So, we’re training them how to shift, some of them have never ridden on bikes with hand brakes and shifting.”

Rimpila explained that the third grade students in NY Mills were preparing to go on a field trip to Itasca State Park the following week, so safety lessons were important to get nailed down before the bicycle outing the following Monday. NY Mills elementary physical education teacher Zach Hocking worked with Rimpila to get each third grader prepared for the field trip.

“They’re all ready to hop on the bikes at Itasca,” said Rimpila. “Usually in the fall, when I did it with the fifth and sixth graders, we did the same thing in the parking lot, the rode around town. Last spring, we took all of our fifth and sixth graders to Glendalough and rode around down there.”

Rimpila has worked with elementary students for years, but his favorite part of his vocation has always been the learning and enthusiasm of the students.

“Just seeing the kids excitement about being outside and doing stuff that’s going to keep them active and healthy for the rest of their lives,” he said. “The kids really enjoy it. Staying healthy is being active.”