Leslie Deeter and her husband were in town visiting 12 years ago when they found Still Creek Ranch in the phone book.
Deeter and her husband — who had recently received a ministry degree — spoke with the ranch’s founder, Margaret O’Quinn, during the visit. Deeter didn’t have experience in trauma education, but her husband had worked with children in Dallas.
The two, filled with a passion for working with youth, were hired as a team to come to the ranch.
“Still Creek Ranch is a place for children that have been in crisis or affected by trauma to come and live and be able to learn,” said Deeter, who works as an interventionist and art teacher for the Still Creek Ranch school’s fourth through 12th grade students. “Our focus is introducing them to Jesus Christ as lord and savior, and we also teach them a strong work ethic and try to give them the best education we can.
“My favorite part about my job is that I can talk freely about my faith and just how God has helped me overcome the hard things in my life educationally, and just through that relationship, we can overcome anything and be able to learn and grow in anything,” Deeter added. “I just love the kids and I really look forward to every day. It’s challenging at times because dealing with different backgrounds can be challenging, but I just love it. It’s really fulfilling and meaningful.”
Deeter begins her day working with elementary kids for “Intervention,” a one-on-one program to help a child who is struggling and behind in school work to catch up.
In the afternoon, Deeter teaches elementary, middle and high school art to class sizes of three to seven students. She finds teaching all levels of students rewarding but finds herself especially drawn to elementary and middle school-aged kids. “They just seem so bold in their art attempts; they don’t have any boundaries,” Deeter said.
She said she finds that as people grow older, the more they fear or criticize themselves for making mistakes. High school students need a little more push to be comfortable in what they do and grow from it, she said.
“I’m hoping they get most out of [my class] that they are free to be creative and that God’s given them gifts to express themselves, and hopefully it is a fun time without the stress of worrying about being perfect,” Deeter said.
Evelyn Priest, a foster parent with Still Creek Ranch, said Deeter gives a lot of thought, care and concern into her projects with the kids.
“I see kids who come [to the school] broken, with no confidence, and with our art program I see kids where at first it’s kind of like their drawings and paintings are kind of sad, and then you start to see more color and life come out of their drawings. ... It’s like more life is being put back into them,” Priest said.
“She’s very passionate about what she does with the kids, and you see that show in their art,” she added.
Elim Chang, Deeter’s student of two years and the school’s only graduating senior this year, said his favorite part of her class was freestyle drawing, in which he had the freedom to draw whatever he wanted.
Deeter’s class is more than art, it is therapeutic for many students, and Chang says that the knowledge he has gained in her class will serve him through the rest of his life.
For Deeter, she enjoys seeing how children blossom and grow through her classes.
“The blessing is to see how the kids overcome and be able to work through their struggles to be successful — that’s the cool part,” she said.