El Estoque

Korean PTA hosts annual staff appreciation barbecue

MVHS staff comes together for a lunch of Korean cuisine

Sunjin Chang and Helen Chao

*The original interview with Korean PTA president Yoo Jung Mee has been translated from Korean to English by Sunjin Chang*

As the air filled with the smell of barbecue, students and staff gave glances to a stand where a few MVHS mothers grilled barbecue. On Friday, April 27, faculty members convened in the staff lounge for a lunch hosted by the Korean Parent Teacher Association, ranging from smokey, fragrant barbecue to a platter of white cake and fresh fruit. Teachers and administration lined up around the room as the PTA members served them food on paper plates. Amidst rapid chewing and lighthearted chatter, some teachers lingered inside the room while others ventured out to the balcony to eat under the sunshine.

The Korean PTA first proposed the luncheon idea 13 years ago, wanting to express their thanks for the staff and the effort they put in for students. Initially, principal April Scott and her fellow staff members didn’t know what to expect, but when the luncheon finally garnered attention, it was phenomenal, according to Scott. The luncheon, which is typically held around early March or late April, has even reached people outside of MVHS – some district employees travel to the school campus just for this meal.

“We received such great, great kudos that they did it every year,” Scott said. “And now it’s become kind of a tradition.”

The MVHS Korean PTA started in 2003 and meet every first Wednesday of the month in room A112. Besides the annual barbecue, they open seminars and hold college counseling sessions, sometimes inviting child education lecturers. The luncheon, however, is the busiest time of the year for the members.

“They start barbecuing in the morning and we can smell them barbecuing the ribs,” Scott said. “It tempts us all day long.”

According to Korean PTA president Yoo Jung Mee, the volunteers who assist with the barbecue arrive at around 9 a.m. to set up the tables. However, those who are in charge of the shrimp tempura and sushi rolls — which quickly become stale — arrive around 10:30 a.m. to start the cooking.

The food and menu are prepared about two months prior to the event. It is the busiest period of time: all members take on individual roles of preparing food and buying ingredients. The meat must also be pre-ordered, although the members cook the meat and make their own sauce. This year, they served kimchi, salad, shrimp tempura, california roll, japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), galbi (Korean barbecue) and chicken. Each year, the members record the quantities of food left over to determine what and how much to cook for the next luncheon.

The mouthwatering effect doesn’t end immediately after the midday meal. The volunteers pack a lunch box of leftovers — if there are any — for teachers to take back home. While Scott’s favorite dish is the kimchi, biology teacher Pooya Hajjarian is especially fond of the shrimp and the opportunity to socialize with the staff.

“It’s so hard to pick,” Hajjarian said. “I loved everything. But if I had to pick one thing to eat over and over it would be those shrimp [tempura].“

Besides the food, Hajjarian considers the luncheon an opportunity for the staff to get together to socialize — something he acknowledges that doesn’t happen often. It’s an event everyone on staff looks forward to, and he believes that the attendance for this event is much bigger than most teacher meetings. Similarly, computer network technician Brandon McArthur also acknowledges the chance to bond with his fellow staff members. While there’s certainly the delicious food, McArthur especially loves the way it brings his co-workers together.

“I think [the association] helps make this one of the best days of the year,” McArthur said.

To fund the event, the PTA requests a registration fee from each mom. Parents of graduating seniors usually donate generously. After the barbecue, the PTA holds a final meeting in May, in which they suggest ideas for how to reimburse money.

When Jung Mee hears the energetic feedback from staff members, she feels accomplished and thankful, as it is a significant amount of work on the Korean PTA’s part.

“Since we’re not of young age anymore, our bodies start to ache, but we’re doing this for our kids so that they can maintain a healthy relationship with their teachers and have a good school life,” Jung Mee said. “We also want to give off a good image so that teachers can think positively about the Korean community. We’re so thankful that teachers think this way.”

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/el_estoque/albums/72157694671897551

Correction 5/4/18 1:49 p.m. A previous version of the story that appeared on May 3 incorrectly stated that the PTA barbecue started seven years ago. The barbecue actually started 13 years ago. 

Correction 5/4/18 1:56 p.m. A previous version of the story that appeared on May 3 incorrectly spelled Yoo Jung Mee as Yoo Jung Mi.