Chris Dease has taught art at Woodbury High School (WHS) for 25 years—but, to her students, she’s more than just an art teacher. Her classroom is a safe space. She’s like a second mom to some and a confidant for others. “The kids do feel safe around me,” Dease says. “I accept them for who they are right now.”
From the District 833 Educator of the Year award to the Woodbury Chamber Educator Award, Dease has received several recognitions of honor, including her most recent nod—the WCCO Excellent Educator award. While teaching a Photoshop assignment, her classroom door opened and in walked WCCO anchor Kim Johnson, a camera operator from the station, WHS principal Sarah Sorenson-Wagner and the superintendent Keith Jacobus. “I was shocked. It was a very surreal moment,” Dease says. “At first, when they all walked in, I thought, ‘What’s going on? Am I getting fired? What did I do?’”
Though she accepted the award, Dease says she would’ve done so on behalf of the teachers at WHS, as they all have helped her over the years—teaching her new approaches and “helping me keep my sanity,” she says.
Despite the fact that she’s the teacher, her students teach her—in terms of trends, apps and music. “They are so cute, trying to explain or help me understand,” she says. “I have an insatiable curiosity, [and] I think the kids like to feel that they can teach me things, as well. We teach each other.”
She’s taught every art class offered, from jewelry design to AP art and design—where she can truly get to know the students and help them navigate their junior and senior years. “I am lucky to be a mentor to help them find the strength [and] … confidence to continue,” Dease says.
In Students’ Words
“Being a student in Mrs. Dease’s class is not like most others. While all of our school’s teachers are very kind, you truly feel like an equal in Mrs. Dease’s classroom.” –Clarice LeBow
“What separates [Mrs.] Dease from most other educators is her motherly warmth she brings to me and her students every day … I would best describe [Mrs.] Dease as my second mom—my art mom.” –Natalie Mercill
“Pretty much everyone loves Mrs. Dease. When you walk into her room, there’s always a crowd around her desk. Everyone wants to say hello.” –AJ Palmer