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The Dancing Angel: Tribute paid to beloved CPHS dance teacher

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It wasn’t hard to see that Stacy Kaye Danielson, longtime director of the Cedar Park High School dance teams, was loved by her community. She embodied the spirit of selflessness, kindness and compassion. 

During her 17-year career with Cedar Park High School, she touched the lives of countless LISD students, parents and staff. Danielson, who was 40, passed away on July 27, 2018, after a two-year battle with colon cancer. 

A small portion of that community came together at Cedar Park High School on Aug. 6 to bond over laughter and tears in honor of Danielson’s memory.

“She just had this way of making you feel like you are so important to her,” said Kelly Sanford, a close friend and coworker of Danielson. “She made everybody feel that way and she impacted me because she made me strive to be a better person and, to this day, I think that was her impact towards other people… I knew that, when I met her, she was going to be a friend for life.”

Sanford, a Georgetown resident, moved to the area in 2002. She became the assistant cheerleading coach and met Danielson, who was then the assistant dance director, on her first day of work. The two shared an office and Sanford said they “clicked” instantly.

“She was always like a sister to me… truthful, heartfelt and genuine. She and I helped each other through good times and rough times, but always stuck together. Even when we were both so busy during football seasons… we always made time for each other, be it her inviting me to judge Celebrities tryouts, or us meeting for our monthly dinners. We always found time to stay in each others' lives. Stacy made you feel like you were a friend for life. Now that she's gone, I realized that she wasn't just a friend for all of her life. I'll consider her one of my best friends for the rest of mine.”

“Immediately upon meeting Stacy, I felt very welcomed,” said Nikki Evans, a former CPHS assistant dance director. “She taught me so many things that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I feel like I’ve known her my whole life over the span of just a year.”

Evans worked with Danielson for a year before her death and has now taken over as director of the Celebrities, Emeralds and Cedar Park High School dance departments.

Desiree Foster, a parent of two daughters involved with the dance team, has been volunteering for six years. 

“Stacy made volunteering fun and she appreciated everything you did,” said Foster. “She always wrote thank you notes for things you did that you didn’t even mind doing. She always made you feel special and was always there for you. She noticed if something was off, she listened and talked to you about everything. You could go to her for anything. When she found out she had cancer two years ago, she asked me for advice on how to tell the girls because she was taking them to officer’s camp and didn’t want to make it about her. She wouldn’t let us make it about her. It was always about the girls and putting them first. She’s the picture of grace, strength and dignity.”

After making a 24-hour cross-country trip from Jacksonville, Fla., to Cedar Park, Danielle Walker and her daughter, Gracie, met Danielson in August of 2015, and knew they had found their home.

“Gracie was coming into Cedar Park High School for a tour of the school during her sophomore year,” said Danielle. “We had Gracie’s dance stuff in the car just in case she was asked to try out. We met with Stacy and she asked Gracie to put her shoes on and see what she had. She watched and came and sat next to me and she had this expression on her face… She said to me that Gracie needed to be on the varsity team. It just really answered our prayers because we knew that this would get Gracie a place to eat lunch and make friends. She didn’t ask Gracie if she wanted to be on the team. She just went into her office and started pulling stuff out of the closet: eyelashes, earrings, costumes… Immediately, Stacy made the accommodation because she loves her students that much. She knew that would change Gracie’s life, knowing she would have a place to fit in. That gave me a place, that gave me friends. I fell in love with her immediately.”

“Stacy always made us laugh,” Gracie said, tearing up. “I’ll always remember the talks and the laughs that we shared with her in her office.”

Gracie graduated from Cedar Park High School over the summer as a captain of the dance team. She will attend Samford University, Alabama’s top-ranked private university, in the fall as a Nursing Major with a Minor in Dance.

Katie Seesselberg, a former student, has known Danielson for about ten years.

“I was in eighth grade when I met Stacy,” Seesselberg reminisced. “They were going to start the junior varsity team and so Stacy came to the middle school and announced that the JV team was coming to Cedar Park High School. I tried out and made it and danced for her for four years of high school. I served as an officer for my junior and senior year so I feel really lucky that I was able to have that time with her. We grew a really strong connection, she was always my favorite teacher. She also introduced me to the Rangerette program during the start of my college career at Kilgore, which she had been a part of. Once I made Rangerettes, we also had that bond together. She’s been constant in my life for the past ten years. Even after high school, we were talking every day. She let me choreograph and needed an assistant so I was here three times a week and went to all the games. It was a blessing that I was able to work with her, not only being her student but also as her coworker.” 

Seesselberg will marry her high school sweetheart, Trevor Thompson, a former Cedar Park High School band member, on Aug. 25. 

“It’s going to be a tough one because we talked about how she was excited to be there and watch me get married,” Seesselberg said, tears rolling down her face. “I know she’ll be there in spirit but… it’s going to be hard. She was one of the first people I told because she was always there for me. She was such a good person. I’m going to live my life with the motto, What would Stacy D. do? She’ll be with me forever.”

John Sloan, Principal of Cedar Park High School, revealed he received Stacy’s help in getting acquainted with his new position in 2014.

“Stacy made me feel part of the community and part of the school because she had been here a long time,” said Sloan. “Stacy was always a person who, anything she could do to help out with the school or events, it was always with a smile. She was so willing and committed to this school. When she got sick, she always handled everything with grace and stayed above the fray. Regardless of how she was feeling or going through, she always treated people well. She was a genuine person who treated people well. She taught us all what it means to be brave.”

Fellow Cedar Park High School teacher, Anthony Garcia, met Danielson two years ago.

“Stacy is one of those people that you feel like you’ve known for years,” he said. “As the broadcast journalism teacher here at Cedar Park High School, this is my first teaching job and I didn’t know anyone at the school. Stacy reached out to meat my first football game because it was both part of our jobs. Her just being so open and kind, she made me feel like I was part of the tribe. She invited  me to have dinner with her and other teachers after the game so she’s facilitated some lifelong friendships for me. She linked us all together in this way, different people from different programs, and bond us together so well. It’s so hard to encapsulate who she was in just a few words.”

Danielson was born on Aug. 9, 1977, in Austin. She is survived by her sons, Lane Wesley Danielson, 12, and Luke Peyton Danielson, 10.

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