FRIDLEY, Minn. (FOX 9) - As the principal of Hayes Elementary in Fridley, Minnesota prepares to say goodbye to his school, his students are also wishing a fond farewell to another familiar face.
Every month the school starts with an awards ceremony to honor the students’ achievements. For 17 years, Principal John Piotraschke, also known as Mr. P, has presided over those assemblies when top students get the wildly popular Giraffe Awards.
Following the ceremony, Norman, the hand puppet alter-ego of Mr. P, brings a special message. In three back-to-back shows across the school's grades, Norman is the way for life lessons to sink in.
“Being caring to others and share with your friends and other people, make new friends, stop bullying,” said one student.
“There’s also times where there might be things going on in school where we want to talk about it and this is a great forum to do that with,” said Principal Piotraschke.
But with Piotraschke leaving his position as principal that means Norman is moving on, too.
“Where are you going, Norman, where are you going?” Mr. P asked the puppet.
“Well, I’m graduating and I’m going to college of course,” said Norman.
Dressed in a cap and gown, Norman shared his dream of college with the students, telling them to work hard to make their dreams a reality.
“I’m going to go to the University of Minnesota, I’m going to be a Golden Gopher,” said Norman.
For the students, it will be a big change not seeing Norman each month.
“I feel sad because he’s been teaching us a lot of things about being kind and caring,” said one student.
“It’s a big deal for a lot of people,” said Piotraschke. “It’s an emotional thing for me, too. It’s 17 years. It’s 500 times we’ve done this, so a lot of fun.”
Piotraschke is moving onto a job at the district level, which means that Norman is still going to be out there and could still make some appearances from time to time.
“I’m really blessed beyond belief because this has been an amazing ride, it’s been an amazing journey,” said Piotraschke.