The principal wears costumes to make children “laugh and laugh”


CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) — A dinosaur, a snowman or a cowboy. You never know what you might see in the morning at Clear Lake Middle School.

Principal Mike Lester has been dressing up frequently to greet students for four years now. Passionate about Halloween and homecoming costumes, he sometimes wears silly outfits outside of these special occasions.

“I just saw how much fun I had (dressing up) and I love making the kids laugh and laugh,” Lester told the Mason City Globe Gazette. “I’m like, ‘Why can’t we do this every day somehow, or as much as possible?’ Bringing them in with little smiles is the best thing ever.

Before collecting costumes, Lester taught shop classes and used to put grease on his clothes. Her move into an administrative role gave her the chance to wear “goofy, fun” outfits.

Bow ties and colorful pants to be exact.

“I’ve always preferred bow ties to ties. I put on different colored pants and have a bunch of different colored bow ties,” Lester said.

Receiving a helmet at a welcoming ceremony in the district is what launched his collection.

“That first day of school, I had orange pants, a shirt, an orange bow tie, and (the helmet),” Lester said. “It just made me say, ‘I can find other things to do like this. “”

Lester now has several plastic bins in his office that hold costumes, while the rest of his collection is at home. He said his wife helped him find new outfits to wear to school, especially when he saw a costume he wanted.

In addition to his morning gear, music tends to come through a large speaker he brings outside. Sometimes the tunes relate to themes, or they are songs that parents can play along to. Occasionally, animals make a visit to greet the children, especially on “cowboy and cowgirl” day.

“I brought a horse (that year). The following year I brought in longhorn steers. Two miniatures,” Lester said with a smile. “Last year it was the pig and this year it was the donkey.”

Lester is already planning big surprises this holiday season and hopes to make a Hulk transformation costume. He has been compared to the Marvel hero because the vein in his neck would burst during his training days or his emotional moments.

“I want to slowly turn into the Hulk in October. I’ll start with the hand, then maybe next week I’ll have a hand and my leg will be green,” Lester said. ‘Halloween, I’ll be all Hulk.’

According to Lester, the attitude of students when they enter school is paramount. Teachers and staff at Clear Lake Middle School strive to ensure children can leave their stressors at the door and focus on learning. Welcoming students in the morning, in disguise or outside, is a way to start off on the right foot.

Each child has different reactions to morning greetings, which creates individualized goals for Lester with each student on how they can make their day.

“You can read the children. I see a kid who’s just a little depressed, I’m doing everything in my power to hopefully get a little smile,” Lester says.

Sixth grader Jason Bennett said his favorite costume so far was the dinosaur. Jason tries to walk past the manager in the morning, but Lester teases Jason that he’ll find him later.

“I find it more fun when I walk past,” Jason said with a smile.

“It’s a little game that we started,” Lester said.

Eighth grader Jack Schlichting said the way Lester said hello to him made school a “welcoming” experience for him.

“It makes me happier. Just being able to go to school, like it’s hard because you’re tired in the morning,” Schlichting said.

Schlichting’s reaction is what Lester is aiming for when he greets his students, costumed or not.

“My goal, of course, is to make everyone laugh and smile as I go, parents and kids alike,” Lester said.

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