Arcadia art teacher fulfills dream in classroom where she grew up

Carl McKeeth and his daughter Taryn keep family teaching tradition running at Arcadia High School

ARCADIA, Wis. (WKBT) – One Arcadia teacher is calling it a career after more than 30 years in education. And the teacher taking his place is a familiar face.

On the surface of Arcadia High School, not much is happening at the moment.

“I think everyone maybe feels like there’s a lot unfinished because of the way we had to just ended things,” said Carl McKeeth, a teacher and coach at Arcadia High School.

But if a person looks closer, they’ll see more is happening now when no one is watching.

“I’ve been a teacher for 32 years,” McKeeth said.

McKeeth thought about retiring this year, but he had second thoughts when school instantly closed.

“And the biggest reason I was holding back was because I didn’t get to say goodbye to the kids and the staff,” he said.

His daughter Taryn McKeeth was his student just a short time ago.

“All my kids went through the art program,” McKeeth said.

Taryn McKeeth remembers those days.

“I spent so many hours after school in his room,” she said.

Her father was also her coach in wrestling.

“We would all go on like family diets during wrestling season,” she said.

All of this is only possible because their family decided to move back home after Carl McKeeth’s time as a teacher in Watertown.

“It was a big school,” he said. “Watertown had 1,600 kids just in the high school.”

Small towns are where dreams are made.

“Hands down I would do this again,” Carl McKeeth said.

Some students are returning for the fall semester. Now there’s a little cleaning in order. Their classroom turned into a time capsule. It’s a place where time stands still.

“The calendar is still on March over there,” Carl McKeeth said. “I have a lot of projects in my room that were half done or three-fourths done, and they’re just sitting there.”

It’s not like his classroom is now in the hands of someone he doesn’t know.

“My own daughter is taking over,” he said. “That’s pretty special.

After six years teaching in Alma Center and Black River Falls, like father like daughter, Taryn McKeeth is moving home.

“These former teachers of mine now being colleagues and my boss,” she said. “It was really exciting.”

This was actually part of their plan for a long time.

“It’s kind of been our dream since she was a little kid,” Carl McKeeth said.

The hard part is getting rid of 30 years of creativity as they make the transition to the fall semester. Both share a bond sewn together by family and decades of creations in this very room. Even some of the shelves were built by her grandpa.

“My grandpa passed away awhile ago and it’s like I don’t want to get rid of grandpa’s shelves,” Taryn McKeeth said.

The pandemic has produced an interest in art from people. She said store aisles of art stores are empty.

“All these different art sets were going so fast and the shelves were empty because people need something to do,” she said.

Art gives people a chance to find peace in a year of anxious moments.

“The skills that you come out with aren’t just your physical artistic skills,” Carl McKeeth said. “It’s the way you see things.”

The year 2020 can be seen as the year that was canceled or it can be seen as a year things changed for the better.

“Boy, I’ll tell ya things just fell in place,” Carl McKeeth said. “Life is good even in these hard times. There’s a lot to be happy with.”

Taryn McKeeth said she never wants to throw art away. Since she can’t keep everything in her new classroom she plans to sell some of the art. She would like to use the money to donate to different causes in the community.