Spreading Holiday Cheer

By ALAINA OLSON Alaina Olson
Student contributor

Despite the fact that Cranberry Area School District is still following a remote learning module, teachers worked hard to make this holiday season as exciting as possible for their students through Santa shops, Secret Santa, caroling, and discovering Cranberry’s favorite holiday song.

In order to bring a little holiday cheer back to Cranberry, one of the first events teachers held was a Santa shop. At the Santa shop, select students were able to come and shop for their family members with items previously donated by staff. Staff also provided bags, boxes, and wrapping paper to beautify the gifts.

Every year, the staff involved with Santa shop have received emails from the families of students thanking them for the opportunity, and the students seem to look forward to the shop each Christmas.

A teacher at Cranberry High School and coordinator of the event, Jen Kaye, explained, “Unsure as to whether or not we would be able to offer the Santa Shop to our students this year due to the current circumstance of the pandemic requiring remote learning, Mr. [Ritt] Smith asked us if we would please have it again this year to provide some Christmas cheer and some sense of normalcy for our students.”

The Santa shop first began nine years ago when one of the teachers at Cranberry, Paula Turk, saw a need in the school. Though it looked different this year, the significance of this event was still the same. Normally, during homeroom, select students are chosen to go down to the library and pick out gifts for their immediate family.

Last year, this amazing project provided 53 students with the opportunity to get Christmas presents for their family members at no cost. As for this year, families selected a time that worked best for them to come pick out pre-wrapped, labeled gifts set up in the commons area to follow social distancing rules.

Kaye also went on to mention that, “Seeing the smiles on the students’ faces and the look of happiness in their eyes, make the preparations of this event all worth it.”

The creator of this project, Turk, stated that, “Our hope has always been to spread some holiday spirit to our families and teach the power of giving to our students.”

In addition to the Santa Shop, Secret Santas who wished to remain anonymous made this holiday season a little brighter with the delivery of surprise presents. Through donations and out of their own pocket, Secret Santas purchased gifts for students aligned with the recipients’ interests and necessities. These wrapped presents were delivered to each student’s house, and by committing this act of kindness, Secret Santa hoped to bring some extra holiday cheer during this challenging time.

This project vividly displayed how much teachers care about their students, always making an effort to ensure that their students are safe with some needs met, both in and outside of the classroom.

“We care. It’s simple. Our students become part of our family. We even call students our ‘kids.’ We make sure they know that we care, that we see them.”

Overlapping both of the prior events during the month of December, Michael Poff, Andy Godinich, and Colin Milne, staff of Cranberry High School, created a bracket to find out what Cranberry High School’s favorite Christmas song was. Match-ups were presented every day school was in session through Google forms sent out to every student. In the end, only one song was victorious; please put your hands together for Cranberry’s favorite Christmas song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams!

On the topic of Christmas music, teachers also created a caroling video to cheer up the students in the Cranberry community. Each department performed its own production of a chosen Christmas song with festive costumes and creative dances.

Remote learning didn’t hold Cranberry Area School District back from bringing happiness and holiday cheer to students, and with all of the prior actions considered, it is clear to see how much Cranberry staff cares for the wellbeing of the students they teach.


Alaina Olson is a student at Cranberry High School and a member of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications class.