Shearer Elementary continues long-running holiday tradition

Published 9:58 am Monday, December 11, 2023

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Shearer Elementary School has hosted its version of The Polar Express for over twenty years.

Despite some recent personnel changes, 2023 would be the same.

From Monday, Dec. 4th through Thursday, Dec. 7th, classes headed to the school’s library throughout the day to sit on a makeshift train, hear the beloved story and enjoy treats afterward.

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“The Polar Express is an event that all of our kiddos look forward to each and every year,” said Lindsay Campbell, the assistant principal of Shearer Elementary School. “It’s just a great time for our kiddos to celebrate each other and a time for all of our kiddos to be together and participate in something that they’ll remember for years to come.”

In 1985, author Chris Van Allsburg – also the author of works such as Jumanji – wrote “The Polar Express,” a fantasy children’s picture book.

It tells the story of a young boy who finds The Polar Express outside waiting for him after being awoken on Christmas Eve by the sound of a train.

Jumping aboard and finding other kids on the train, he takes an adventurous ride through different settings before arriving at the North Pole.

While there, Santa Claus offers one of the children an opportunity to receive the first gift of Christmas.

With the story containing both excitement and conflict, it has become a Christmas favorite for many.

Not only did Van Allsburg win the Caldecott Medal – recognizing the most prestigious American picture book for children each year – for his efforts, but the book was later adapted into an Oscar-nominated motion-capture film starring Tom Hanks in 2004.

As students entered the library – many dressed as characters including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Cindy Lou Who from “The Grinch” in celebration of the week’s events – they walked through an arch decorated with white snowflakes.

The latter is one of the new features, while the environment has always been well-decorated.

Afterward, as they looked to their right, a row of chairs was set up along a wall – making them appear to be train seats.

To the outside of the chairs was cardboard decorated to look like a train’s exterior, with red and green Christmas-colored wheels and boxcars.

Thus, once seated, it created the appearance of riding along inside.

Up front, the decorated locomotive featured silhouettes of train conductors reminiscent of Hanks’ character in the film.

With background sounds similar to what one might expect to hear during a ride on a train, the students were met with a familiar face.

Anne Hall, who retired last May after serving as the librarian at Shearer Elementary School for over 20 years, returned to read “The Polar Express.”

“These kids are always special, and this whole Christmas is all about caring for each other,” Hall said. “Some of these kids don’t have Christmas trees. Some of them don’t have Christmas at home. This is their second home away from home. I know that they love it.”

As she read the story, her husband – Roger – and Shearer Elementary School librarian Lee-Ann Robinson prepared treats.

Once the story had been read, students were treated to a cookie, candy cane and hot chocolate with marshmallows in what were designed to look like dining cars inside the library.

“I wanted to keep the tradition alive and keep it going, and it wouldn’t be possible without [Anne] and Roger,” Robinson said, noting that the latter assisted with several designs.

Asked what the most exciting part of the experience was, she was quick to answer.

“Seeing the excitement on their eyes when they walk in,” Robinson said.

Campbell, who sat with her daughter – a student at Shearer Elementary School – when it was time for her class to experience it – would agree.

“Getting to travel on the Polar Express with my daughter is a once-in-a-lifetime [opportunity],” she said. “I’m so excited I got to do that with her.”