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A masterpiece of an art instructor

Christine Dease said the aspect of her job that makes it all worth it is when she hears that past students have moved on to a career in art. Staff photo by Amber Kispert

[Editor's note: this is the first in a three-part series profiling the Chamber of Commerce's Outstanding Educators.]

Is it Christine Dease's inability to say no to a person in need of help? Or is it her excitement in what she is teaching? Is it her respect for her students? Or maybe it's all of the above.

Whatever the reason, Dease, a Woodbury High School art teacher, has been named the "Outstanding Secondary Educator of the Year" by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce.

"I have fun teaching, I love doing what I do. I never dread coming to school," she said. "I'm really lucky to be here."

Dease, 48, said she always knew that she wanted to do something in art, ever since she was little, but she just didn't know what.

"I knew I wanted to do something with art, but I didn't know what it was," she said.

Teaching was always something that was in the back of her mind. With the encouragement of her husband, she obtained an art education degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and her Master's degree from Winona State University.

Dease worked part-time at WHS, Woodbury and Oltman junior high schools simultaneously before receiving her current job at WHS.

"My first year of teaching, I commuted between three schools," she said. "That was kind of wild."

Teaching high school students wasn't always what Dease pictured herself doing, she said there were things that she loved about all age groups.

"I had a really tough decision because you like certain things about every age," she said. "And I was really intimidated to think I could teach high school kids because I thought they were all scary, and out of hand."

Choosing high school has proven to be the right decision because Dease loves to see the excitement on her students' faces.

"They're here to learn how to do it, it's not something that you're born with, you can learn how to do it, that's what's so neat about art," she said. "They are just like these sponges that want to soak up everything that they can."

Dease said the most rewarding thing about her job is being able to expose students to art and its many possibilities.

"When they finally get something and they're excited and proud of it, you feel like you actually brought something to someone that might not have been there and opened up their eyes to something," she said. "Just thinking about how much you can influence somebody to bring a love for art, they may not have had."

Dease teaches a wide range of art techniques and uses a wide range of methods.

"I like to switch things up," she said. "That's one of things you have to do with kids, you can't just sit there and lecture for 80 minutes."

Dease said she really enjoys combining technology and art because that is an area where her students are most comfortable. Dease said she also likes incorporating technology because she is able to learn along with her students.

"One of the big things that I like about teaching is that I learn new things too," she said. "When I learn new things I get even more excited about it and the excitement that you have kind of goes to the kids and they get excited about it as well."

For Dease, in addition to simply exposing her students to the many wonders of art, she said she also makes it a priority to get to know her students and take the time to consider each one individually.

"One of the things that I try to do is understand that every kid has a story -- every kid is an individual," she said.

"I just want to be able to be as understanding, patient, accommodating and flexible as I can be to help them because I really want them to be excited about art.

"And the relationship that you have with the kids, that comes when they feel like you respect them, when they feel like you understand what they're going through, when they feel all that, they respect you back and enjoy the class more."

Dease said she can't take all of the credit for being named an Outstanding Educator, she said she owes a lot to all of the people in her life who helped her become the teacher, and the person, she is.

"It's not just me, I've developed as a teacher from learning from other people," she said. "The people that I work with contribute a lot to the kind of teacher I am. I'm always learning how to be better."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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