Principal starts each school day as ‘Elf on the Shelf’ to surprise students

MIDDLETOWN — Every morning this holiday month an area school principal has transformed herself into life-size replica of a beloved children’s Christmas fable and surprised her students by popping up unannounced on campus.

Her students are eager to see each school day at Middletown’s St. John XXIII Catholic School where Principal Dawn Pickerill will appear in full costume as the popular “Elf on the Shelf” Christmastime character.

Prior to classes starting Friday morning, Pickerill perched atop the campus school sign in front of the school near University Boulevard, drawing the attention of both her students and drivers passing by who wondered why is an adult-sized elf sitting there clad in a bright red elf fashion?

And she takes the holiday fun even further by duplicating the elf’s doll-like manner by not moving or acknowledging her students, who often have fun trying to get her to react, Pickerill said.

“I try to keep the magic in it and try to stay as still as possible and I don’t talk back,” she said.

It’s a first for the veteran principal, whose pre-K through eighth-grade school is a feeder for Middletown’s Bishop Fenwick High School.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

St. John XXIII was created in 1972 as a combined entity to serve all students in the area who were attending the local Catholics schools of Holy Trinty, St. John’s and St. Mary’s.

The school is on the former Fenwick campus site, where it moved in 2004 when Fenwick moved to its new campus in the Warren County portion of Middletown that year.

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Pickerill’s new Christmas tradition is appreciated by both students and school staffers, said St. John XXIII teacher Alina Gohlke.

“She’s not only a strong leader who has made St. John XXIII a pillar in the Middletown community, but she’s a fun-loving, approachable, compassionate individual who is adored by her students and their families,” said Gohlke.

“Mrs. Pickerill strives to make St. John XXIII an amazing place for children to call ‘home’ and she sure knows how to keep it festive — during the holidays and all year round.”

“The children seek her out these early December mornings. They are excited to see where their resident “Elf on the Shelf” is hiding each day,” she said.

Though Pickerill can’t show it while in Elf character, she is having as much fun as her students.

“Even the older students are having fun with it and giggling and laughing when they discover where I’m sitting. It’s been great.”

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