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LAUREL, Neb. | Think back to your high school days and picture a couple of the faculty members.

First, the art teacher. Second, the wrestling coach.

There's a good chance these were two people with very little in common regarding physical appearance, personality and interests.

At Laurel-Concord-Coleridge High School, there are no differences between the two. Both jobs are held by the same guy.

Joe Frost strikes down many of the stereotypes we may have about art teachers and coaches. He chuckles when thinking about some of the reactions he's gotten when he introduces himself as his school's high school art teacher and assistant wrestling coach.

"Sometimes it's like that awkward smile. 'You're an art teacher AND coach. Yeah, right.'" said Frost, in his fifth year at the school. "I just kind of go with the flow."

It's obvious when meeting Frost that appearances can be deceiving. He certainly looks the part of the coach, a muscular guy, not exactly what you picture when you think of an art teacher.

"Art teachers aren't supposed to be athletic," Frost said of the stereotype for those who teach his subject. "You're supposed to be foo-fooey."

Frost said he teaches in a laid-back style: calm, patient and helpful. But get him in the wrestling room or at a tournament, and that Type A personality shows up. Other area art teachers have caught glimpses of it, too. At the conference art competition, all entrants typically get a medal or ribbon. That hasn't been easy for Frost to accept.

"I hear 'art competition' and automatically go into coach mode," Frost said, recalling his suggestion that only the top two or three finishers should get awards, an idea that caught other art teachers off guard.

"When they first found out I was a coach, they said that's not normal. Well, for me it is."

Frost has had a foot in both the art and athletics worlds since he was a child growing up in Hastings, Minnesota.

"We did little kid wrestling, and I've always liked to doodle, to create," he said.

He didn't have time to wrestle in high school, he said, because of his commitments to the school band and choir. Required classes filled out his school schedules, leaving no room to take art. But he continued to create on his own, entering art contests. Rather than hang out at malls, he and his friends would get together and draw.

He majored in art education at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and fell in love with ceramics and stained glass. After graduation, he was a substitute teacher in the Twin Cities area and also taught and coached judo at the University of Minnesota.

When Frost was hired to teach art at Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, administrators told him that wrestling coach Don Maxwell needed an assistant. He jumped at the chance. When school started, students didn't know what to make of an art teacher with an athletic streak.

"For me it was nothing new. It was always a shock that people were surprised by it," Frost said.

They'd never seen an art teacher who could walk the length of the room on his hands, turn cartwheels and do round offs. But then, they hadn't had a wrestling coach who could draw, either.

The two activities aren't as different as they may seem, Frost said. But both are hands-on activities that require a mastery of basic skills.

"They mirror themselves so nicely. They are so individual," he said. "Wrestling and art, you're left bare. You put yourself out there."

Those preconceived notions? Gone.

His students will bring friends from other schools over to him when he's working at a concession stand and introduce him, saying "this is our high school art teacher, and he can do a round off."

Other wrestling coaches approach him at meets seeking his advice, and not just about wrestling.

"Some have asked me my opinion on art projects, little projects around their house."

Frost, who also coaches the school's one-act play production team and keeps stats for the football team, takes it all in stride. He's happy to have a job in which he can be involved with art and wrestling, two things that he loves.

"There hasn't been a day I didn't want to go to school. This day was fun. I got to see all this awesome art work," he said, making a sweeping gesture with his hand toward the student work on his classroom walls. "Then I get to go see (wrestling) development from freshmen to seniors, I get to share their exhilaration, their heartbreak."

For Frost, it's a picture-perfect combination.


Court reporter

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