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Deb Lee makes her hardest decision ever

Deb Lee has come across lots of photos of the colleagues she has worked with over her years at Hudson High . Photos by Meg Heaton1 / 3
Deb Lee has been a business education teacher and at the helm of the HHS yearbook since she came to Hudson High School in 1988. She was hired by then Principal Noel Schumacher who said the job was a package deal. She said the decision to retire was very hard to make. 2 / 3
These are just a fraction of the awards the Hudson yearbook staff has received over the years under the guidance of Deb Lee. The Hudson High School yearbook has earned a reputation for excellence throughout the state. 3 / 3

Deb Lee said the decision to retire at the end of this school year was one of the hardest she has ever made.

“I love what I do and I love my students. This hasn’t been an easy decision for me. I will miss them so much,” said Lee.

Lee received her degree in business education from UW-Eau Claire and taught for a time in Woodbury and in adult education before coming to Hudson High School in 1988. She was hired by then Principal Noel Schumacher (she notes she will be retiring under Peg Shoemaker) who explained to her that the job was something of a package deal and included her being in charge of the school yearbook. It was an extracurricular activity back then and doing both was a challenge she said she enjoyed. She has been on the job ever since with the exception of one year to get her master’s degree and another to work in sales for Jostens, the company she has worked with over the years on the yearbook.

Lee said she has a special place in her heart for high school students. She believes her positive and somewhat playful personality has been a good fit with the teenagers she has taught. “I like to be silly with them and try to bring an element of fun to my classes. But these same kids can also be very mature and they really rise to a challenge and can perform at a pretty professional level.”

“I love teaching them employability skills. I had one student who came up to me years later and said I had saved her life. It took me by surprise. She went on to explain that she had gotten a divorce and it was because of the skills I had taught her that she was able to get a good job to support herself and her family.”

While Lee may be best known around the community as the yearbook advisor, she has been committed to a variety of business education courses over her tenure. She is finishing out her teaching career with a full slate of classes that includes accounting, business technology, business and entrepreneurship, digital media, yearbook and two independent studies. She lobbied for and was successful in getting the yearbook changed from an extracurricular to a for credit class not long after she came to Hudson.

Lee, along with the late Rich Gustafson who was the advisor for the school newspaper, were among the first to use computers in their classrooms and in the publication of the yearbook and the True Blue Times.

“Desktop publishing was just getting started then as were things like Aldus Pagemaker and Photoshop. I started using typewriters and we’ve been adapting ever since. It’s been exciting and challenging.”

Lee said her favorite thing about working with her yearbook staff is “pulling the creativity out of the students.”

Every year the students create a sort of history book for the school but each year they do it in a new and innovative fashion, coming up with theme they carry out through pictures, copy and headlines.

Her favorite yearbook was from 1992, saying that “Electrifyingwas special because the theme was so relevant.

“The opening copy read, ‘Pull down the room darkening shades, the interstate spotlights are here. From the red, yellow, and green of the stop and go lights to the fluorescent green of Mr. Movies, rapid growth is electrifying the Hudson community. Arby's, Shoney's, Fairfield Inn, and St. Croix Meadows are among those who recently powered up. Watt's next?’ Then we talked about what the power source is -- the Raiders.”

Lee says every year students come up with something new and creative for the book and she will miss that process and seeing it all come together.

As she prepares to leave full-time teaching, Lee has some advice for students, their parents and teachers at the beginning of their careers and some of it is the same for all three groups.

“Be positive. Don’t let negativity get in your way” is advice she would give anyone. To students, she urges them to “find where your passion is and put all your energy toward that.”

She advises parents to encourage their children to do good things and be good citizens. “And let them explore -- find new things, fail if they have to and learn that it is just a part of life. Every child is unique, so what is good for one of your kids may be different from another one. Learn what works for them.”

For teachers, she stresses reinforcing the good things parents are teaching their kids and promoting accountability. When it comes to discipline she holds with the tenet, “discipline in private; praise in public.”

Lee and her husband Dennis have three sons and two grandchildren and she will be spending time with them in retirement but she also expects to have an “encore career” but doesn’t know what it will be yet.

“I have so much to be thankful for. I have been blessed with a wonderful family, good health, and 27 years in the Hudson School District. I am very grateful to Noel Schumacher, Bob Sheffen and Bob Benoy for offering me this opportunity and to the community, students, co-workers and administration for making this these 27 years so wonderful.”

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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