Lunch Bunch

By Lauren Seo

It was fourth period on the first day of school, and Shannon Acedo, the then-new Head Upper School Librarian, couldn’t find a familiar face in the crowd of hungry adolescents. Venturing out into the Chalmers quad, however, she noticed a table seemingly overflowing with teachers.

As she set her green lunch tray down on the table, she was greeted by welcoming smiles and a chorus of “hellos” along with what she called “a genuine group dynamic”. Although she didn’t know it then, this fourth period lunch group had been eating together since the mid-90s. Now, a year and a half later, Acedo is a member of the group.

Regulars include science teacher Wendy Van Norden, Performing Arts teacher Ted Walch, Dean James Patterson, Dean Vanna Cairns, Visual Arts teacher John Luebtow, Visual Arts teacher Arthur Tobias, Foreign Language teacher Allan Sasaki and Mathematics teacher Suzanne Lee.

In addition to the core group, other teachers occasionally stop by to lunch.

“It’s a very welcoming group, and the variety in departments keeps me updated on what happens in other departments,” Tobias said.

As teachers share an office with their own department, Acedo said having lunch with other teachers from other departments was a great way for her to get to know the school as a whole.

“People are often with their departments,” she said. “You hang out with your department, you have offices with your department. But at lunch it’s all the different departments together, and that’s very nice.”

Tobias agreed with the benefits of having lunch with faculty from different departments, as it provides a variety of conversational topics.

“We talk about everything from the real serious science stuff to just telling the dumbest jokes you can think of,” he said.

Tobias also added that the group prides itself on its off-limits approach to discussing colloquial subject matter.

“Although, of course, certain things are off limits,” he said with a grin.

Most students don’t know that faculty are provided with lunch cards, and are contractually obligated to lunch in the student area. However, as scheduled meetings with students and fellow teachers may conflict with lunch time, it is unusual to see this large a congregation of lunching teachers.

Although one table in the quad is meant to comfortably seat five, the lunch group occupies every available seat as well as the posts, seating up to a dozen at a single table.

Tobias, who has been teaching at Harvard-Westlake since 1989, said there was never an official beginning to the group.

“At some point in the past the same bunch of us noticed each other and said, ‘hey, didn’t we eat lunch together last year, and the year before that?’” he said laughing.

Sasaki was also surprised that the group has had the same period free together for such a long time.

“It’s kind of odd that it was scheduled that way,” he said. “But we’ve gotten to know each other a lot more than one would expect.”

Since the group’s beginning, informal traditions have been developed and upheld, such as the addition of a dessert day on Wednesdays.

Members take turns bringing various desserts, such as the homemade cookies Acedo brought last Wednesday, and share them with their colleagues.

A set of serving implements, including a silver cake server and knife, donated to the group by former math teacher and “lunch bunch” past regular James O’Connor, is given to the person whose turn it is that week. After the lunch, it is then that person’s responsibility to clean up the utensils and put them in the faculty mailbox of next week’s designated server.

This year, the group has started a new tradition of doing their part for the environment by eating from ceramic bowls and plates. Most use ceramic bowls made by Tobias himself, except for Luebtow, who brings the ones he made on his own.

While 10:30 a.m. might seem like an early time to eat lunch, Tobias said it is probably essential that the group is full of early risers who exercise early in the morning as well.

“There is a real camaraderie here among people who normally wouldn’t see each other during the day,” he said. “It’s nice.”