Magnet Foundation opens arms for end-of-semester teacher luncheon


Jan. 28, 2020, 6:37 p.m. | By Vivian Li | 5 months, 2 weeks ago

The luncheon coincided with the Lunar New Year, resulting in festive celebration


As Blazers squeezed through the cafeteria-side doors after school on Jan. 24, the last day of the first semester, they were greeted by a significantly different sight than the usual — an extraordinarily long line of eager teachers and tables of steaming, aromatic food.

In the past, the Blair Magnet program has hosted luncheons for Magnet staff twice per year. However, this year principal Renay Johnson suggested that they expand the luncheon to show appreciation for the entire staff, as Magnet students greatly benefit from non-Magnet resources in their world language, humanities and physical education classes. "In past years, Magnet families have been very generous in putting on a lunch for Magnet teachers," Johnson said. "They would invite other teachers, but other teachers didn't feel like it was for them."

Photo: Magnet parents finish laying out the homemade dishes for the luncheon (courtesy of Vivian Li).

The Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) has hosted teacher luncheons in the past, but PTSA Staff Appreciation Committee Chair Diane Kelleher appreciated this year's funding from the Magnet Foundation and the contributions of Magnet parent volunteers that brought the unique event to fruition. "It's really generous of the Magnet Foundation to cut a big check to cover the bulk of the catering order, and teachers particularly like it when parents bring homemade dishes," Kelleher said. She noted that the food itself distinguished this luncheon from past events, with a wider diversity of food and international dishes.

Since the end of the semester coincided with Lunar New Year's Eve, Magnet parent volunteers enthusiastically delivered, filling tables with homemade stir-fry rice noodles, green scallion steam buns, mung bean cakes and more. Dumplings, a culinary staple for New Year's celebrations, covered the tables as well. An entire table was dedicated to rice cakes, a signature food during the Lunar New Year. In Chinese wordplay, the phonetically identical characters for "rice cakes" also signify reaching new heights with every year.

Magnet parent liaison June Zhou explained that the parents' enthusiasm arises from a respect for teachers that is deeply rooted in Asian culture. "Teachers are the most respected job because they raise the future generation that society depends on," Zhou said. "We appreciate this opportunity because Magnet students benefit from the whole school's staff."

Zhou was thankful for the opportunity to foster more understanding between groups in such a diverse society. "We don't want to just celebrate our own culture," Zhou said. "We want to build a bridge between Eastern and Western culture so people can understand each other better."

Magnet parent Zhen Yuan prepared tea and a poster for the traditional tea table at the event. On the poster, Yuan chose two Chinese idioms to represent the parents’ motivation behind organizing the luncheon. "I spent half a day preparing the poster and deciding what to display," she said. "If you only know Chinese food, you don't get a deep look into the values we've had for thousands of years." "良师益友" roughly translates to the idea that a good teacher also serves as a helpful friend, while "一日为师终身为父" translates to the idea that being a teacher for just one day earns someone the respect of a lifetime mentor.

Photo: A traditional tea set and culture artifacts are set up to teach more about Chinese culture.

Parents decked out the cafeteria with red lanterns, a customary Lunar New Year decoration, and contributed trinkets and emblems of Chinese culture for teachers to take home, including gold-plated bookmarks, intricate paper cuttings and traditional embroidered coasters.

Zhou said the Magnet parents started preparing for the luncheon three weeks before the event itself. Many Magnet parents prepared food far in advance. Parent Bin Chen worked on her dish—signature spring rolls made from scratch—from dawn until she arrived at Blair. "I forgot one ingredient, so I had to run into the store at 6:40 a.m. after dropping my daughter off at the bus stop," Chen said. "I was preparing the ingredients, making each spring roll, and frying them from 7 to 11 a.m."

Despite her frantic morning, Chen said her contribution was worth the hassle. "Making something homemade instead of buying something from the store is my way to say thanks," she said.

The teachers said the luncheon made for a delightful end-of-semester celebration. Music director Michelle Roberts was surprised because she expected only catered food. "This is awesome," Roberts said. "They sent us an email saying there was going to be chicken, but we didn't know there would be all this other tremendous food here."

Special education department teacher Amy Parrish appreciated the effort that went into setting up the tea table and hoped future luncheons will bring culture to the forefront as well. "It was a nice personal touch to give us a little something more than just food," she said. "It would be great if other luncheons incorporated other cultures as well—it's fun and enriches us."

English teacher Anne Rubinovitz noted the luncheon created a great impression of the school's environment, especially because as a first-year teacher at Blair. "I sense that our PTSA really cares and that the teachers and parents can all come together and celebrate at the end of the semester," Rubinovitz said. "It's a very warm feeling."

Johnson said she was extremely satisfied with how the idea turned out, from the Magnet program's reaction to the final product. "The parents were great," she said. "They brought in food so the whole staff that touches Magnet kids can benefit from the luncheon, and the quality of food is above my wildest expectation."

Johnson said she wanted future Magnet staff luncheons to include all teachers from Blair's 316-count staff. "I hope that we can still get parents to support the idea that Magnet students don't just belong to Magnet teachers—they belong to the whole Montgomery Blair," she said. "I hope this first-time luncheon can be a tradition here.

Last updated: Jan. 28, 2020, 6:38 p.m.


Tags: luncheon Magnet Foundation PTSA magnet program

Vivian Li. Hi! I love all things journalism, art, and the environment. When I'm not working on an article, I enjoy browsing fashion, baking, running, and reading. I'm a huge health nut and I love researching new recipes. At Blair, I'm on the debate and DECA team … More »

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