Taking the Love of Teaching Biology to Photography

Taking the Love of Teaching Biology to Photography

Jan Lietha is one of those people who instantly creates a sense of wanting to learn from her. A Biology teacher for 33 years, she retired from the School District of Solon Springs. Jan quickly expresses her love of learning and sharing what she’s learned with family, friends, and students. “I loved teaching. Yet, what was more rewarding was ‘learning’ from my students,” she said. Jan feels her students helped her grow throughout her tenure, and now in retirement her opportunities to teach and learn have not diminished.

She has always loved photography, and during her teaching career she took advantage of training opportunities to use the gift of photography in the classroom as a teaching tool. She took classes to learn how to use her camera effectively, to enhance, edit, use the various tools on her camera for better photos and how she could implement the skills to benefit her students. She began using her photos in the classroom for wild flower identification units. She knew it was a substitute for seeing the actual plants but more efficient to give a wider spectrum of plants through photos. She found it a boon to her teaching once she was able to use her computer to project the images on the classroom screen.

She advanced her skills with a “Photography for Teachers” class offered by Trees of Tomorrow (located in Eagle River). She discovered how to “really use my camera, techniques, composition, and even an introduction to Photoshop. More ways to implement photography into the classroom as a teaching tool and creating interest in the students in Biology and photography.

Jan says one of the additional benefits of her photography skills has been in creating quality photos of her grandchildren. “Another is getting me out into nature. I can’t think of a negative experience, other than I got my camera wet this Spring and being without a camera for six to eight weeks.” She adds, “it was a real eye-opener for me, as I hadn’t realized how much I depended on being able to take photos whenever I wanted to.” To avoid a future drought of camera-less, she has invested in a spare camera!

No question why her photography reflects nature’s intricacies. Nature is a natural draw for her camera lens. She enjoys the creative process including learning some quilting skills she picked up at the Solon Springs, The Gift Shop. She also had experience working in a greenhouse nurturing flowers, shrubs, etc.

Jan worked on her first book during a class at WITC which brought the piece almost to a close in the 8 weeks. She expressed her excitement when she waited for the first draft of the book to arrive and even more excitement to see it for the first time. She, along with her friend Becky, owner of The Gift Shop, reviewed the draft and could see some changes were in order. Becky said she felt the book would be something they would want to carry in the Gift Shop. So she ordered up some inventory and was thrilled to see it sell. To diversify her photo products, she produces handmade cards, prints, metal prints, and canvases of her photos for sale.

Without her camera, Jan feels like a part of her is missing. She’s now taken to photographing intricate details of nature. “We live in an area with so much diversity, and can see wondrous and beautiful things if we get out there,” she said. Whether in the forest, on the lake, or your backyard you will discover the diversity of nature.


(Jan Lietha, with her husband, lives on Lake Minnesuing their home for the past 22 years. Her first book, “Exploring the North Country Scenic Trail” is a photo journey of the area trails and landscapes with descriptive narration. The book can be purchased at The Gift Shop in Solon Springs, WI)