Poruban on the Shelf


Did you ever have to find a minuscule version of your teacher to gain extra points on your upcoming test? Well, Mr. Greg Poruban’s Genetics & Biotechnology class is lucky to answer affirmatively. 

I am sure that everyone is somewhat familiar with the Elf on the Shelf, a Christmas tradition that involves parents hiding a magical Elf doll their kids try to find in the morning. Many people associate this tradition with the warm family spirit of the holiday. Mr. Poruban would do the same for his children when they were younger.

By a miraculous coincidence, around that time, a couple of his former students made a project. Mr. Poruban said, “They got this picture of me from, I think, one of the yearbooks for one of the mismatched outfit days of the spirit week where I dressed like an elf. They cut that picture on the poster for their project, which I thought was kind of funny. At one point, I got rid of the projects but cut out my picture and kept it. I don’t know exactly when it turned into the Poruban on the Shelf, to be honest.

I think I’ve been doing it for at least five years, since before the pandemic. I think I just had it out one day and got the idea because of my own kids. There was one day when I just started moving it.”

When we were all virtual, Mr. Poruban had to take a break from the tradition. Last year, Poruban on the Shelf was revived. 

There are three rules that make the search for the Poruban on the Shelf unforgettable:

  1. He is always hidden, but you can see him without opening or moving anything. 
  2. Not necessarily the whole body is shown, sometimes it is just a head or a torso. Yet, he is always identifiable.
  3. You need to look around carefully, sometimes into smaller spaces, without touching anything. 

Despite the limited space of his classroom, Mr. Poruban finds limitless possibilities to hide his little accomplice. In order to preserve the mystery of Poruban on the Shelf, no specific hiding places will be mentioned. Since there are multiple degrees of difficulty, Mr. Poruban’s favorite spots are the ones that are more challenging. Those spots engage the class into the game from the moment they walk in until the bell rings. 

“The last couple of days before the break are very difficult, and I just enjoy watching students walk around, trying to find it. A lot of students really get into it. And it’s also fun because it’s the week right before the Christmas break.”

Unfortunately, Poruban on the Shelf is a time-sensitive undertaking. The students can participate only in the weeks before winter break.

“It’s fun to come in and see the class smiling while looking for it,” senior Ava Murphy said. “Especially with winter break, everyone was anxious to go home and wanted the break to start. Poruban on the Shelf made me more excited to stay at school and not constantly want to go home.”

Mr. Poruban said, “There are definitely times when no one found Poruban on the Shelf. I think, without a lot of hints, students eventually get frustrated. There have been times when I really had to almost point it out to them. The Poruban on the Shelf always reveals himself at the end.”

“Most students coming into my class obviously don’t know about the tradition, and only the students in December get to do it,” he said. “Second-semester students do not get that opportunity because then more students would know about the hiding spots which would ruin it. Whoever gets it, gets it. I want to keep it underground. I just think it’s kind of fun, something different. We usually start the class by briefly looking for it. If they don’t find it, then we go on with whatever we’re doing, and then maybe, towards the end, we start looking again. I definitely do enjoy this tradition.”

Senior Mia Murphy, one of this year’s participants, enjoyed this game, stating that:

“It was kind of like a nice break from class time. It was also a fun thing to do to get us into the holiday season.” 

Like myself, Mia ended up getting two bonus points on a test because we both found Poruban on the Shelf in one of its most difficult spots. There is no other class that does a similar activity on a regular basis. It is an incomparable experience that perfectly gets the students into the holiday spirit.