By Ed moreth 


Plains teachers go all out with decorations for school


December 22, 2022

Ed Moreth

Cristina Winebrenner hands a snowflake to Madi O'Mara while Dana Diehl works on one of the

The Plains Elementary School students went home on Friday afternoon leaving a simple and plain cafeteria behind, but when they got to school on Monday it was filled with colorful lights and decorations.

Eleven teachers and staff members and one volunteer husband transformed the school lunchroom into a holiday haven Friday evening. The group waited for the kids to leave for the weekend before hauling in an assortment of store bought and handmade Christmas decorations into the school cafeteria. Every class from kindergarten to sixth grade made something for the "Christmas in Montana" theme room display.

"They won't be able to eat their lunch, they'll be so mesmerized by all this," said first grade teacher Denise Montgomery, who broke out in a dance when Chuck Berry's song "Run Rudolph Run" came on while they were decorating. Montgomery's kids made pine cone animals for the display.

It took the teachers nearly three hours Friday evening to decorate the room and the entrances to the cafeteria. They first folded and rolled out all the lunch tables and put them in the hall. The operation was coordinated by Title 1 and Special Education teacher Jill Rice and Paraprofessional Denise Earhart, as they have done for the last four years with former themes of "Poles Apart," "Mad Scientist" and "Polar Express." The Mad Scientist event last year included a science demonstration by the high school physics students. Rice said the Polar Express, in 2019, was by far the most extravagant display and went through the entire elementary school. The group normally decorates the cafeteria and the school hallways, but this year they did only the cafeteria, and it was done top to bottom, though there were bits of decorations in the halls and classrooms, including a female elf on the shelf named "Ellie" that first started appearing on December 1 and moves about the school each day.

It was the first time for Travis Greer, husband of Michelle, who teaches kindergarten, to help with the project. He hung up long rolls of white tablecloths just below the ceiling to simulate snow. Third grade teacher Madi O'Mara, fourth grade teacher Dana Diehl and second grade teacher Cristina Winebrenner hung paper snowflakes made by the third and fourth grade kids. Paraprofessional Teresa Shaw hung cotton snowflakes along a wall in the hall. Earhart said she attached the cotton snow to fishing line while watching a Hallmark Christmas movie.

They also hung lighted "snow" down the middle of the room and along the wall Diehl and O'Mara put up lights that simulated a snowing motion. The walls were lined with paper birch trees created by kindergarten teacher Dani Crowe and her aide Izzy Crabb, along with silhouetted animals from moose to squirrel made by Rice.

"We all love doing this; it's so fun," said Rice, who added that it couldn't be done without the help of the group. The second-graders of Winebrenner and Cindy Gumm made popsicle snowflakes. Crowe's kids made paper cardinals that were positioned in the trees and wreaths around the room. Crowe kept in the Christmas spirit with a silver bow stuck to her forehead the entire time. Fifth grade teacher Alec Cole and his father, Mike, the high school physical education teacher, made a three-foot tall wooden reindeer.

"It will be exciting to see their faces when they see it on Monday," said Michelle Greer. "I just love it. I wish we could keep it up for a month, but I'll take a week," said Gena Ferlan, a Title 1 teacher, who trimmed and positioned five real Christmas trees around the room. The group planned to dismantle the entire winter wonderland scene right after the students leave for Christmas vacation on Wednesday.

"We took a boring old cafeteria," said Ferlan, "and changed it into a magical winter wonderland."


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