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Ice climbing, homemade wrapping paper, a Swedish Christmas: Teachers share their favorite ways to celebrate the holidays

Photo credit: Provided by Natalie Kang
Sixth grade Dean of Culture, Community and Belonging Natalie Kang ice climbs in Erie, Colorado, where she goes every year with her husband and friends. “It’s something I always look forward to for winter break. It’s kind of a non-traditional Christmas or holiday choice, but it’s what works for us,” Kang said.

To all the Archer students who talked about their holiday plans, did you know what your teacher’s holiday plans were? Educators have their own traditions and celebrations as well; from football games to ice climbing, here are some Archer teachers’ favorite ways to spend the holidays.

Fitness and wellness teacher Natalie Chambers said she is normally a “huge hermit” who loves to spend the holidays sleeping and watching movies. But this year, she did something different from her normal routine. Chambers traveled to Texas for the Lions versus Cowboys game and then went to support the University of Michigan at the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl game.

“We also paid for a tour of the Cowboys Stadium because I like marking off stadiums on my bucket list, and I’ve never been. I’ve heard good things,” Chambers said. “We’re literally getting on a plane from Texas, we’re taking a red eye, getting here on the first and then going from the airport straight to the Rose Bowl game.”

Math teacher Matthew Bartha spent his holiday with his newborn daughter. He and his wife started a new tradition this year.

“We had our first baby in July, and she has not been over to see her mom’s side of the family because [they] are all in Tennessee,” Bartha said. “To start a new tradition, because we have a baby, we need to do something in Tennessee every other year and something in LA the other years.”

Sixth grade Dean of Culture, Community and Belonging and French teacher Natalie Kang looks forward to her annual ice climbing trip in Erie, Colorado, with her husband and friends. Ice climbing is similar to rock climbing and is usually held in an ice park of frozen waterfalls. Every year, Kang said she and her husband invite a different group of friends, and sometimes, their trips are as big as 14 people.

“[My husband] is the lead climber, [meaning] he establishes the route and sets up the anchor for the other climbers,” Kang said. “He climbs first, which means he’s placing ice screws in the wall as he climbs, and he clips a rope to those ice screws.” 

Math teacher Leila Chakravarty said she loves to spend quality time with her kids during the holidays, whether it is by discovering new parks, going on nature walks or playing sports. To count down the days until Christmas, she said she makes an advent calendar for her three children.

“A lot of times, kids get [calendars] full of chocolate, but I made mine out of felt; I sewed it and put special symbols on it that are important to my family,” Chakravarty said. “We fill that up with stickers and sometimes candy — fun little things for the kids. It’s a really fun way to get excited about Christmas.”

Every year, English teacher Sara Rubin celebrates Hanukkah with her husband’s family and Christmas with her family in St. Louis, Missouri. Rubin said she loves wrapping gifts and will spend hours creating them.

“My favorite part of the holidays is wrapping gifts, not even giving the gift. I do elaborate gift wrapping — I often will use recycled paper bags from grocery stores, and on the blank side, I’ll do really elaborate decoration,” Rubin said. “Sometimes, I’ll do cross-stitching patterns on them, paint them or do collages and other stuff like that. I love doing it because it’s super personalized.”

These three gifts display some of the wrapping paper that English teacher Sara Rubin has decorated. Every year, she personalizes the wrapping paper and gives the gifts to her family and friends. (Photo credit: Sara Rubin)

History teacher Bethany Neubauer visited her family in Boston for Christmas. Her husband is Swedish, so every year, she and her husband’s family do a Swedish Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve with foods such as Swedish meatballs, cheese and bread.

“It turns out there are a lot of Swedish people in Los Angeles — who knew? In fact, there’s a shop in Santa Monica, where I live, that has a lot of Swedish food, so we just get lots of cheeses and smoked salmon,” Neubauer said. “We make this bread pudding with an almond in it, and whoever finds the almond is supposed to be the person who’s going to get married next. We have to be careful; I try to put it in the bowl of somebody who’s not married yet.”

Although students often forget their teachers have lives outside of school, teachers are more than just their occupation. Students, try to learn more about your teachers — you never know what you might have in common.

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About the Contributor
Sydney Tilles, Senior Reporter
Sydney Tilles joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022 and became a senior reporter in 2023. She is on the Archer tennis team and dance company. She loves learning about current events, participating in service learning and activism. She has a passion for government, politics, and social justice.

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    Ms. GeffenJan 8, 2024 at 8:56 am

    This is such a fun article, Sydney! I loved reading and learning about my colleagues’ traditions. Thanks for sharing.