Sunlit English Palace honors retired teacher with pun

November 27, 2018 — by Shama Gupta and Allison Hartley

These stairs lead to the new English Palace.

For occasional special lunches, English 10 and AP Language teacher Ken Nguyen will cook on a portable cooktop while a dozen other English teachers bustle throughout a large room that has views of many roofs on campus.

The new English Palace, adjacent to the MAP annex and the robotics room, provides a productive workspace and a calm on-campus gathering space for the school’s largest department.

The longest serving English teacher, Cathy Head, said that around 15 years ago, as the leaks in the ceiling from the sinks in the art room above were patched, the beginnings of the English office formed downstairs. What used to be a rows of lockers was sealed and given to the English department to fashion into an office. Teachers furnished their limited space with a mini-library, a meeting table and  a refrigerator.

Head said that the old locker bank they had adapted, which is under the current English office, was like a “dungeon” —  a dark, stuffy room cramped with a small library, few VHS tapes and CDs.

Around the same time the space was rebuilt for the English office, longtime teacher and department chair Genevieve Palace retired. While the maintenance department re-painted the room and the door, the department decided to dub it the English Palace in her honor.

English  teacher Erick Rector recalled Palace as a person whose presence was always light and appreciated. Rector, a Saratoga High alumnus, recalled being a freshman in one of her classes.

“She was one of the original English teachers; she was amazing, and loved by everybody,” Rector said.

While honoring Palace, Head said they also enjoyed the irony of naming what they thought of as a glorified closet as a “Palace.”

Since then, Head said the English department’s meeting room has moved multiple times — most recently, two years ago to the upstairs room previously used as the band pound. The new space is a large, sunlit room featuring a wall of windows and a sink.

Since the addition of the music building near the McAfee Center, the old band storage room was cleared out and the English teachers moved their Palace directly upstairs to enjoy their new second-story view.

“The new room is bright and happy, and has windows and fresh air — a cross breeze. It’s amazing,” Rector said.

Their old room down below now serves as a drama storage.

The department routinely uses the Palace for collaborations such as department meetings, individual grade team meetings and the grading of students’ twice-yearly writing assessments.

Along with the work-oriented functions, the English teachers chat and eat at the long tables in the Palace during lunch, when they often bring food to share.

Although the old office had the same purposes, the second-story location offers more natural light.

Nguyen said that lunchtimes are always bustling; the teachers like to talk about their day, recent TV show discoveries and occasionally big news topics.

Nguyen even bought a portable cooktop to use in the Palace when he brings ingredients to chef up a lunch for himself.

The Palace ultimately provides a convenient homey feel for English teachers at school.

“Several of the people in our department are avid cooks,”
Head said. “It’s got a whole lot of potential with a sink, now, and it’s so happy and bright.”

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