Lechtenberg begins new adventure as Central’s art teacher

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Carlyn Lechtenberg is Central’s new K-12 art teacher. She’s pictured with husband Nick and sons Teff and Stirn. (Submitted photo)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


Central will have some new faces this upcoming school year, and one in particular is new K-12 art teacher Carlyn Lechtenberg, who will take over for the recently retired Cathy Recker. 


While Lechtenberg is new to the district, she is not new to teaching. The northeast Iowa native spent the first 11 years of her career teaching art at Waukon, from where she graduated. 


The love of teaching, especially art, began much earlier for the self-proclaimed “busy body,” who always loved arts, crafts, crayons and paint as a child. Lechtenberg also loved teaching, a trait most likely inherited from growing up in a family of educators, including a grandfather and her mom and dad. At the moment, all three sisters are involved in education. Teaching, it appears, runs in the family. 


As a child, Lechtenberg always wanted to play school with her sisters and friends, “teaching” with old workbooks and booklets brought home by her mom. 


Although she knew she wanted to be a teacher, it wasn’t until college that Lechtenberg realized how deep the passion for art really went. At the time, she was still debating between physical education and art. But job opportunities and marketability, as well as an overwhelming love of creativity, steered the decision toward art. 


“It was my passion and the joy of teaching students to find love and creativity in art and instilling that love for it. I want every student to know that they are an artist and I want to make them believers in the art they can create,” Lechtenberg explained. 


However, the ambitious Lechtenberg did not simply stop at art. She also received her coaching endorsement in 2009 and coached seventh grade volleyball for about four years and JV track for two seasons at Waukon before life got too busy. 


And that’s not all. In 2009, Lechtenberg also started a graphic design business in her home called Font & Foto, where she makes everything from business cards to logos to wedding invitations. The side business used to keep her busy on the weekends and during summers, but much like coaching, life simply got busy. The “busy” in questions was the birth of her two sons, Stirn and Teff. 


As Lechtenberg put it, “the business of life has led to taking fewer graphic design jobs.” 


The business of life and COVID-19, led Lechtenberg to take last year off from teaching. The family felt it was a safer option with two young children at home. But after a year away, an opportunity presented itself with a fortuitous retirement and a phone call from Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp. While Lechtenberg openly admitted she was not planning to return to the profession at the time, things started to change after a visit to the school. 


“I was impressed and surprised. I also liked the family atmosphere for the office staff and my husband and I love Elkader,” she said. 


Lechtenberg also liked the smaller school environment, schedule, open-mindedness of the administration, having a dedicated room and teaching all grades, which allows for art collaborations. With a changed mindset and her “heart fully in it,” Lechtenberg started to look at the position as a “new adventure.” 


It was a way to step outside her comfort zone and take on new challenges, like being the new teacher in the building and creating a new program. But they are challenges she is approaching with the utmost confidence—confidence in knowing she can ask questions when necessary, confidence in the curriculum and confidence that comes along with being a veteran teacher who has “seen just about all of it.”


As Lechtenberg returns to teaching, she hopes to create a carefree, safe space for creativity where everyone can focus on being an artist, regardless of ability. She sees her classroom as a place where she can see the “smiles on kids’ faces” and witness the “pride and love they have when they create art.” 


Lechtenberg also wants to instill the importance of art and the notion that all kids have the potential to be creative in some way, and to teach kids to be kind and helpful—understanding that “everything is better when we work together.” 


Most importantly, Lechtenberg wants students to realize that art is more than simply being creative. It can make you a better thinker and problem solver. It is fundamental as an outlet, and there is beauty in art that teaches you to “leave what you found better than when you came,” she said.

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