Santa’s Elf, aka Andrea Harms, the BGM Elementary Counselor, smiles as she looks out from the elementary school office earlier this month. Each day, the elf was found in various places around the school from display cases to windows and even on the school roof. Submitted photos.
By J.O. Parker
She’s a wife, a mother, an elementary counselor and on the side, an elf.
An elf, you ask?
Yes, an elf who loves putting a smile on kid’s faces and giving them hope and a reason for coming to school.
Actually, she’s Andrea Harms and in real life, she works as the BGM Elementary School Counselor. But this year, Andrea took on a new role, as one of Santa’s elves.
Every school day starting Dec. 1 through the end of the school semester, Andrea showed up at the school around 7:40 a.m. dressed in her green, red and white elf outfit. Students found her hiding in the trophy or display case, sitting or standing on the school roof, standing in a tree, hanging out by the school Christmas tree, sitting in the window of the elementary office or in some other conspicuous space around the school.
“The elf had a new hiding place every day,” she said.
And when Andrea had a morning appointment or found herself too busy, the elf showed up at the end of the school day. And the last day of semester, the elf showed up with special guests Santa, a reindeer, a snowman and a Christmas tree.
“There were four of us all dressed up to greet the students going on break,” said Andrea. “Then the Grinch (myself) made guests appearances throughout the day.”
Andrea came up with the elf idea, saying it was something she wanted to do. In September, she took the elf idea to BGM Elementary Principal Mary Sherwood, who thought it was a great idea and gave her the green light.
“The students loved it,” said Andrea. “I saw the students looking all over the second they got on school property. The pure laughter that came from them when they spotted the elf was truly a sound I loved to hear. I even saw some high school students who were looking for me on the days that I was outside.”
“Our BGM Elementary Elf from the North Pole brought so much joy to the students, parents and staff each morning at BGM Elementary,” said Sherwood. “I saw the students arrive at school with a smile on their face as they looked for the elf, both inside and outside, to see where she was hiding for the day. It has been a wonderful and fun event to get us to winter break.”
Andrea said the time between Thanksgiving break and winter break can be very hard on students. There are a lot of emotions, excitement, and over stimulation.
“I get a variety of kids in my office who had temporary holiday anxiety, stress, and nervousness during these few weeks,” Andrea said. “Their schedules were all over the place with extra family gatherings, holiday traditions, concerts, and you can't forget the big change in sleeping/eating habits during this time.”
Andrea said by dressing up as an elf, she was giving the kids another fun reason to come to school.
“During the last few weeks of dressing up, I noticed some students arriving early to "catch" the elf getting into her hiding spot,” she said. “Parents have made comments about how they have enjoyed watching kids and other parents laughing/smiling when the elf was spotted.”
She said the general rules for the elf was that students couldn’t touch her and she didn’t talk or wave back.
“However, sometimes when students waved, the elf might have slightly wiggled her pinky at them,” said Andrea. “I remained in the same position the entire time and kept a smile on my face.”
Andrea said the one thing that surprised her the most was how involved some of the staff members were getting with the elf.
“They all are playing along when the students talked about the elf and some were taking pictures daily,” she said. “The custodians were the true MVPs for helping me come up with new spots, providing props, or getting me into hard to fit places.”