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Freier retires after 37 years of teaching art


Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Art teacher Stacey Freier poses for a portrait on her second-to-last day teaching at Havre High School Monday. Freier said one of her main inspirations for becoming an artist was her grandmother, who was an artist herself.

Havre High School art teacher Stacey Freier is concluding her career in teaching after 37 years June 5.

"It's a good decision, but there is a lot that I'm going to miss," she said.

Freier graduated from Hellgate High School in Missoula in 1978, but she said she wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl. She said that after high school she had a great opportunity when she was offered a full-ride basketball scholarship to Northern Montana College, now Montana State University-Northern. Freier played for Northern for all four years of her college career and graduated from Northern in 1982 with a bachelor's in physical education and a minor in art.

The same year she graduated from Northern, she began teaching at Joplin-Inverness Public Schools, now Chester-Joplin-Inverness Public Schools. She taught art for students in kindergarten through 12th grade and PE for students, kindergarten through eighth, for three years. She added that during that time she also coached basketball, volleyball and track.

In 1985, she got married to her husband, Rodger, and moved to Havre where she took her position at Havre High School. In Havre, she also coached nine more years.

She also re-enrolled in college over the summers to attain her bachelor's degree in art, first at University of Montana, then transferring to Western Montana College, now Montana State University-Western, graduating in 1990. She added that four years ago she also received her master's degree in art integration from UM.

Freier said that right after high school she went to college then directly into teaching, never taking a year off or missing the start of a school year. The end of the school year this year marks 53 years she has been involved with the educational system, either as a student or a teacher, she added.

She said the biggest influences in her life, other than her students, have been her family and the community of Havre. She also learned a lot from being a breast cancer survivor, she said, adding that from that experience she learned "don't sweat the little things."

Other influences in her life were her former English teacher Tom Demondes, and her former basketball coach Vicki Brown, she said. She always wanted to become a teacher but they both pushed her to pursue her dream.

She added that another person who played a roll in her life was her high school art teacher, Kallie Dachamps. She said that she loved the name Kallie, even naming one of her daughters the same name.

Freier said that she and her husband have two daughters and have recently become grandparents. One of the things she is looking forward to with being retired is having the chance to spend time with her grandchild.

"I want to be on grandma duty," she said.

She said she has mixed emotions about her retirement, but she is excited to pursue her own future in art and photography as well. Already a part of some of the artistic groups locally, she added that she also recently applied to the Montana Artrepreneurial Program, which is an art-centered business development program taught by working artists. She said that being part of the program, she hopes she will be able to learn the business of being an artist.

Freier said that she plans to stay in Havre - where her husband owns a business - and also wants to continue teaching Oula dance classes. She said she previously was holding classes in the high school, but now she is retired she wants to find a new place to do dance.

She added that she already has traveled a bit, recently going to Mexico and Austin, Texas, where one of her daughters lives.

Looking back at her years as a teacher, she said, she will miss her students the most.

"I don't want to cry," she said.

She said she truly loved teaching art to her students, largely because it was a great way to build relationships with students through visual art.

"Every year it's important for me to build a relationship with the kids," she said.

One of her favorite things about her job was seeing the students produce something they were proud of. She added that she told all of her students if they invest their time in their work they will always be proud of what they are able to produce.

"I always talk about how art is all about the journey, not necessarily the outcome, but just being able to do it," she said.

Another part was helping her students have pride and get excited about the process of art, she said.

Freier said that, for her, art is photography, but she is trying figure out some other techniques - her interest is in mixed media. One thing she got from her class was teaching students how to do art journals. She added that this is one of her favorite subjects to teach in her class.

"It's where the written word and art collide," she said, adding that her students could take any written word, poem or quote and they got to do what they felt according to the prompt.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Stacey Freier meets with her class on the final day of classes today at Havre High School.

She wanted to teach her students how to find success through art and through relationships, she said. She added that, at the end of the year, she always tells her students to take more art classes.

Some of her favorite artists are Ivan Albright, because of the texture used, and Chuck Close, for the abstract nature of his work, she said. She added that she uses Close a lot in her classes.

It is important that every student knows they can be artists in some form, she said.

"I always say make art with a lower case 'a,'" she said.

After her 34 years at Havre High School, she said she will miss the students and the faculty she worked with over the years.

"It's about the journey, it's about the process, it's about making art you're not going to love, every process, but just to try and enjoy the journey of trying," she said.


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