They say the best teacher can sit back and watch the students succeed.
Knappa students twisted their torsos, flipped their feet and gracefully galloped across the Knappa High School gym Tuesday in a dance recital "Shoeby Doo."
And after 24 years at Knappa, Susi Brown has learned when to sit back.
And when 26 students each choreograph and perform dances in a recital Tuesday, she watched in awe.
"In a small school like Knappa, that's a lot," she said.
But this was Brown's last dance recital. This year she will retire.
"This has been a really fine year at Knappa High for the arts in may ways," Brown said. "And this is a great way to end it."
Students in the dance class have each been working on their own pieces since April, with only "little nudges" from Brown. They couldn't be in their own pieces, but they could chose the music and costumes for the dancers.
Some, like Tori Amos wearing all black and scarves around her neck, jived to the rhythms of female folk rock artists. Some boogied tunes from the 1960s rock and roll artist Dashboard Confessional, kicking feet and skipping. Some moved like mummies wearing torn clothing in Michael Jackson's "Thriller." And some wore Asian-inspired clothing and twirled their fingers to music from Thailand.
Brown said student put on a recital last year and in the winter, but this was one of the first shows almost completely choreographed by students. She attributes all the work to the students, and they attribute their inspiration to her.
"She goes all out with us," sophomore Kristina Johnson, 16, said. "Since this was her last big performance it meant a lot to the whole crew."
Johnson had originally choreographed a piece to the Beach Boy's song "Wipe Out," but the CD broke after baseball players Frisbeed it across the gym.
So Brown bid for another CD on eBay for Johnson, but unfortunately, the CD didn't get to Knappa in time, so Johnson had to rechoreograph her dance to Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There?"
"She (Brown) takes it on her heart; she really does," Johnson's friend sophomore Tami Owen said, tearing up. "I'm really going to miss her."
Brown only choreographed the first and the last songs, which were ensemble pieces for all the students in the class.
The final number was Brown's opus as students used jerky and fluid movements to Bette Midler's "Moonlight Dancer."
"There are different kinds of people in the world and there are different kinds of dancing," junior Rachel Voorhies said.
Over the years, Brown has directed a variety of theatrical pieces and dances. Voorhies said, it's not always auditioning for Brown's plays.
"You have to work really hard for what you want," she said.
As a result Knappa students have performed several pieces at the River Theater in Astoria.
Brown has been teaching for 31 years, "If you don't count the years I pretended to be a teacher since I was 3."
When school ends, she will travel to China next year with some friends.
"There are so many things I still want to do," she said.
Still, she's not sure she'll be able to leave teaching behind. She said she might teach at a community college, but nothing has been arranged.
The students agreed they will miss Brown.
"I'm so afraid that the dance activity is not going to be around next year," Voorhies said.
Principal Mike Tiedeman said they've hired a teacher from Nebraska, Matt Christenson. Tiedeman said he's confident Christenson will be a great teacher.
"But no one will fill Suzi's shoes," he said. "She's a real treasure."