BRITT | “I was honored today by a student athlete when she asked me to judge her middle school art show,” wrote Ted Bieth, former Britt High School art teacher, on his Facebook page. “There was no way I could turn her down.”
That student athlete is Jolene Eischen, West Hancock Middle School art instructor. Bieth may have only been her teacher and volleyball coach for a few years, but he made a huge impact. In fact, the two are still friends today.
Bieth has touched the lives of hundreds of students in his 44 years of teaching. “He left when I was a junior but he wrote a note saying I should go into art. ‘She is very talented,’ ” Eischen said.
Not only did Eischen go into art, she became a teacher. In fact, many of Bieth's former students have gone on to make careers in art. One is a designer for John Deere and one works for Target doing commercials and art layouts. “It does your heart good to see their success,” Bieth said. “You don't teach for the money.”
Even those not as artistically inclined benefited from Bieth's tutelage. “He let us work on things we were good at. For me, that was pottery,” said Wayne Kronemann, West Hancock School Superintendent. “He let me work on it during study hall, even when I wasn't in art.”
Years later Bieth is still influencing young lives. He said he told his Northwood-Kensett elementary art students, “You can be an individual. You can break some rules.”
Bieth's art instruction took him from his first position in Northeast Hamilton in Blairsburg, to Britt, to Mason City Newman and to Northwood- Kensett, where he retired this spring.
In addition to teaching, Bieth coached high school girls’ volleyball for 32 years and served as an assistant wrestling coach. He was the NIACC Woman’s' Volleyball coach for four years, until spring 2008. He has also been and still is an adjunct art instructor at NIACC.
“I can pretty much do anything in art,” Bieth said. “I'm a realist,” meaning his work looks realistic. “I do a lot of pen and ink work.” He has taught pottery from time to time at the McNider Art Museum in Mason City, “but pencil is a friend I understand.”
Along the way, between teaching and coaching, Bieth explored other interests, but always came back to art. He said he took a year off teaching, between '82 and '83, “because I had a chance to do something I always wanted to do. I went to Washington and worked with draft horses. I just had to do it.”
His love for draft horses led him to become an illustrator for The Draft Horse Journal for the past 30 years. He played an important part in the Britt Draft Horse Show. For 25 years the show commissioned and sold commemorative belt buckles. “I designed all 25 years, working off a theme,” Bieth said proudly. “The last buckle was my wife and I sitting in a wagon waving goodbye.”
Now that he has retired from the public school system, Bieth said he will continue to teach one or two art classes a semester at NIACC. “And I have my own art at home, but I'm a true outdoor person. I like gardening. I hunt,” he said, adding it's hard to make himself stay inside to work on his own projects. “The wife and I like to travel, so we will be doing that for a while.”
You may take a teacher out of a school, but you can never take the school out of a teacher.
“Like Jo, there are a lot of students I've stayed in touch with,” Bieth said fondly. “You not only make an impact on them, they make an impact on you. You never really know who you are going to touch until years later. That's a warm feeling.”