I have said for years, both at the Northern Lights Santa Academy, and when I have previously taught at other schools, that there are no bad Santa schools. If a student picks up anything that helps him or her to become a better Santa or Mrs. Claus then the school was of value. Having said that, we have been asked why someone should attend our school, so I have outlined our philosophy and what sets us apart:
1. School enrollment/size – The number of attendees at Santa school should not be discounted as a consideration. The more students enrolled, the more knowledge and networking opportunities are available. Perhaps the best information you receive at school may be from speaking with another Santa or Mrs. Claus in attendance. As the largest Santa school in the Southeast, the Northern Lights Santa Academy has 75-85 students per session.
2. Curriculum – We offer “fluid” rather than “static” curriculum. We do not follow the same textbook/workbook session after session. Instead we offer classes on a rotating and seasonal basis. Simply put, spring classes are geared towards the skill development for the purpose of allowing time to utilize and perfect these skills before the season starts. Our fall classes focus on the business of Santa, as well as inspiring and motivating Santas and Mrs. Claus for the upcoming season. We also tailor each school session to the specific needs of the students who will be in attendance by pre-screening registrants to find out what their needs are in terms of subject matter. After each school session we ask for feedback and suggestions from our students, and continually develop curriculum based on that feedback and those suggestions.
3. Single vs. Multiple Instructors – It is our opinion that one instructor, regardless how dynamic or how great the information, only has one perspective to share. And we feel it is human nature to tire of listening to the same voice for two days of instruction. For this reason, while many Santa schools have only 1 or 2 instructors, we strive to offer our students a range of instructors (from 8-12 per session), in order to provide greater learning opportunities, a variety of perspectives, and increased retention by students by limiting the “burnout” factor from listening to one voice for two days.
4. Instructor Expertise – It is the school philosophy that offering a team of high caliber instructors with diverse backgrounds and expertise who specialize in the subject matter they teach gives our students the best quality of instruction. For instance, we have brought in professionals (outside of the Santa community) in the arenas of law, marketing, social media, makeup/hair, photography, developmental disabilities, etc. to teach classes pertaining to those arenas, as we believe no one person can be an expert in all subjects.
5. Teaching Methodology – Rather than 100% lecture-style, we strive to offer a variety of lectures, workshops and interactive sessions to address the different learning styles of our students.
6. Book vs. Live Instruction – Anyone can simply stay at home and read a book from start to finish and learn from it. And while the content may be well-rounded and the contributors may have a wealth of information, there is no opportunity to ask questions of those contributors no matter how much experience they have if they are not there in person. The number and experience of contributors in a book cannot be classified as offering years of experience to a student at any school. The years of knowledge instructors in a school offer is only cumulative when those instructors are there in person teaching with the opportunity to interact with students.
7. Vendors – We feel that vendors are an important resource for all students, especially for first-time Santas and Mrs. Claus. We offer a number and variety of vendors at each session and the vendor showcase is an integral part of our school experience. And because of the size of our school, we attract vendors that cannot afford to travel to a smaller school.
8. Student Satisfaction – Don’t take our word for it, ask our Alumni. Santas and Mrs. Claus who have attended various schools really are the best resource to help you find the school best suited to your needs. We encourage you to ask your fellow Santas and Mrs. Claus, who do not own or teach at a school, which schools they have attended and what they have to say about them in comparison before choosing a school so you can make a decision that’s right for you.
On a personal level, although I have been a Santa for over 40 years, I am still a student too. Each year, I attend Santa schools other than the Northern Lights Santa Academy for my own benefit and also so that I can make informed comments about what makes us different from other schools. I also participate in classes and workshops outside of the Santa community, such as storytelling and improvisation, that are beneficial to me as a Santa. You simply do not ever know everything you need to know about being Santa or Mrs. Claus. It is always a work in progress, and that is why I am a strong believer in education and training, and why we strive to offer the best Santa school possible.
As always, please feel free to contact me anytime if you have questions, feedback or suggestions. If you wish to speak to some of our Alumni about our school, please let me know. Thank you for taking the time to consider the Northern Lights Santa Academy.
Santa Rick, Dean
Northern Lights Santa Academy