At the end-of-the-year banquet for the Edmonds-Woodway Dance Team, the parents and dancers gathered to celebrate the end of another dance season. This year they also celebrated the end of an era: After 16 years as head coach, Deb Johnson is stepping down.
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Having led The Warriors to 15 state appearances in 16 years, with multiple district championships along the way, Johnson is ending her tenure on a high note. This year she was selected as the WIAA Dance Coach of the Year for the second time; the first time was in 2011.
Johnson had often told her dancers that she was going to coach long enough that she would have to use a walker to get to state. The team, knowing this was to be her final year, presented her with a purple and green, gem-studded walker when the team qualified for this year’s state championships. Johnson kept her promise and used it at the competition last month in Yakima.
Her leadership and dedication to her team is unshakeable, and her personal devotion to the girls is nothing short of inspiring. One former team captain, Clarissa Böettger-Carter, danced under Johnson’s leadership for three years.
“Deb helped me get through a really hard time in my life, the entire team did,” Böettger-Carter said. “I honestly don’t know how high school would have gone for me if I wasn’t on the team. She pushed all of us to do our best, be kind and work hard…She’s selfless and truly one of the best people I know.”
Assistant coach Katt Lewis called out Johnson’s contributions away from the competitions as well, noting that Johnson has created international service opportunities for her dancers over the years. Böettger-Carter related this as well, saying “We spent a week in Tijuana building houses, meeting locals and we went to an orphanage. It really changed my life.”
While she is stepping down, Johnson is not stepping away completely. She will still be involved with the team, assisting with the choreography of the team’s military routine next year, as well as serving as competition director. Her impact will continue to be felt and appreciated.
Katt Lewis will be taking over head coaching duties with Hannah French as her assistant.
— Story and photos by Karl Swenson