“Never sell yourself short,” said Gretchen Bishop, Portage High School art teacher and graduate. “Never limit yourself.”
Athletics came naturally for Bishop, a three-sport athlete. When her best friend asked if she’d sign up to take a painting class together, she laughed and took it as a lark.
“I never thought I’d be any good,” Bishop said, “but I took the class and discovered I had a talent!”
She continued art classes throughout high school, and her senior year, Bishop decided to pursue something art-related in college.
Originally a graphic design student at Purdue University–West Lafayette, Bishop switched to art education her sophomore year and relished the opportunity to substitute teach fresh out of college.
The next year, she landed her dream job at her alma mater.
“I was so happy to be back,” Bishop said. “This is where I get to share my pride.” For the last 12 years, that’s exactly what she’s done. Bishop has served as sophomore class sponsor, coached track, painted the Marine’s symbol on the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps wall, and repainted the mascot head in the commons area.
Within her role as co-chair of the art department, Bishop has had the incredible opportunity of pushing her students’ creative minds and supporting their pursuits.
“I help them display their work and compete in art shows,” Bishop said of her students. “I had a student who won a gold medal at the Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards, a student who won the Indiana Junior Duck Stamp contest, and many others who have won awards at many different art shows around the area."
Bishop is an ambassador for the arts program, spreading the word about the different events and activities that make Portage unique.
“We have an amazing art department at the high school,” Bishop said. “Our teachers can help any art student get prepared to compete on any level.”
“I feel like what I do is very important,” Bishop said. “Even though my students don’t all plan to pursue art when they grow up, I’m not really training them to be professional artists if that’s not what they choose. Instead, I’m asking them to think in a different way, problem-solve, engage in hands-on work, and learn self-discipline to work through obstacles where there isn’t a book or a right answer.”
Bishop’s perspective that there isn’t always one way to do things inspires her students to plow their own paths and realize the value of getting something done.
Bishop’s journey from athlete to artist paints a picture of what can happen when one opens their mind to their own possibilities. And then, from artist to mentor, Bishop continues to push her own limits.
When Bishop gets some downtime, it can be hard to go back to the drawing board. She has so many blessings in her life that deserve that focus, like traveling with her husband and caring for her infant son and his rescue pit-bull mix brothers.
Even still, Bishop takes some time to work on her own drawings, and especially enjoys painting pet portraits for the people who love them.
“Don’t stop at what you think you can do,” Bishop encourages, with her practical approach to pushing the limits. “Try everything.”