People who do extraordinary things often speak of that one influential mentor — usually some educator or coach who effectively taught the sport or subject while effortlessly weaving doctrine and insight into the fabric of curriculum. Sometimes these teachers don’t even realize the extent of their influence on the young lives they touch.

For many Lake Highlands youths, Janie Christy is that mentor, and they want her to know it.

For 15 years, Christy has owned and operated the Janie Christy School of Dance on Skillman. When asked about her own life, the soft-spoken Christy supplies short, unembellished answers: She started dancing when she was just 3. She studied and taught dance throughout her youth and young adulthood, raised three children in Lake Highlands, and with help from her husband, Glen, opened her studio in 1993.

But when prompted to talk about her students, her answers gain momentum. She sings the praises of her students — especially the high school seniors who have been with her the whole 15 years — with marked enthusiasm. She says she’s grateful to have her school in such a close-knit community as Lake Highlands.

Christy’s students describe her and the school with equal affection.

“The Janie Christy School of Dance is maybe one of my favorite places on Earth,” says Jenny McCarthy, a senior at Hockaday who has been Christy’s student since the age of three.

Sarah Worzer, an Ursuline Academy senior who has been under Christy’s tutelage for 14 years, says it’s tough to put into words: “You just feel loved when you walk through the door.”

And both girls agree, “Ms. Janie’s” teachings go beyond dance moves.

“She teaches the basics of dance, but she also teaches you how to love dance, love movement and just have fun with life,” McCarthy says.

“Ever since I was little, I looked up to her,” Worzer echoes. “She taught me about ballet, but she also taught us about life — manners, values, how to speak properly, how to deal with and interact with people.”

McCarthy and Worzer both teach younger dance students now, and they hope to pass on some of the life lessons Christy taught them.

Among the most important, McCarthy says, “that everyone can enjoy dance and have fun with it, no matter what your skill level. Everyone is accepted.”

Karen Blumenthal, whose two daughters have gone through Christy’s school, says people are excited about Ms. Janie’s 15-year anniversary recital at the Majestic Theater.

“But that milestone doesn’t begin to describe the influence Christy has had on the lives of dozens and dozens of girls in the area,” Blumenthal says. “As a parent, I know that my influence ebbs and flows, but what Ms. Janie says is what really matters.”

For her anniversary, Christy’s students collected letters from many of her students over the years and put together a scrapbook to present to her at the recital. The recital’s theme was “Wicked”, based on the popular Broadway musical, and the scrapbook’s title drew its inspiration from the musical’s lyrics: "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

For information about the Janie Christy School of Dance, 9090 Skillman, call 214.343.7472 or visit janiechristydance.com.