MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the start of a new school year and that means a new season of honoring our teachers.

WCCO This Morning surprised an Excellent Educator at Woodbury High School.

It’s hard to tell who appreciates each other more in Ms. Christine Dease’s art classroom, the teacher.

“They just give me this energy and positivity that I can’t get anywhere else,” she said.

Or the students, who on the day we visited one surprised Ms. Dease with a thank you note telling her how she brightens her days. “My life hasn’t always been good but you make my year more of a good time,” the student wrote.

Principal Sarah Sorenson-Wagner says the students see Ms. Dease’s classroom as a refuge.

“She mothers students, she cares for them,” Sorenson-Wagner said. “Students are being vulnerable with her and expressive in their art and sharing a personal part of themselves so she is able to connect with them on an emotional level.”

Ms. Dease views each student as an individual first.

“I want to be that person for them that they can talk to if they don’t have someone at home to do that with,” she said.

It’s not only the students she tends to. Her care extends down the street to a local senior living facility where she assigned her students to meet with seniors and take their portraits which are then hung on the wall.

“Some of the kids were afraid to talk to the elders,” said Ms. Dease. “Once they did it they said they are really nice and they are really smart and they can talk to us and it changed their view about the elders.

The experience was also a lesson for the seniors. “I think some of them even had hesitation that they were wild because they heard stories all the time so they realized as well that they can talk to the teenager.”