Fun music plays in the small, brightly lit room while photographs, cards, and decorations color parts of the plain white walls. Vibrant pink and purple smoothies sit at the back of the room, along with the playful, shiny silver popcorn machine that stands proudly in the corner. With the grace of a dancer doing a pirouette, the pretzels spin in their glass case and await the hand of a hungry student to reach out and select his/her chosen treat.

Patty Corteau and Marie Sharis serve up snacks and smiles each day in the cafeteria. (Photo by Mari Nagahara)
Patty Corteau and Marie Sharis serve up snacks and smiles each day in the cafeteria. (Photo by Mari Nagahara)

Above all, the positive air is both tangible and contagious. The students are welcomed by the very loved Patty Corteau and Marie Sharis who busily prepare food and ring up students waiting to make their purchases.

Corteau stands behind a table covered in bins filled with smoothies, popcorn and pretzels. She fills each red striped popcorn bag one at a time with great care, replenishing the almost empty bin with the popular snack. Behind her, a blender sits waiting and ready, and she spoons large chunks of glistening, ripened berries into the purple oozing liquid and turns the speed on high, letting the blades inside do their magic.

“You’re all set, honey,” says Sharis, from the other side of the room to one of her customers. One by one, she rings up their purchases and students enter and leave the snack room with goodies to share with their friends.

Before third block rolls around, both of the women have their morning routines to make sure that everything is in order before the students arrive at lunchtime.

Corteau works at the register of the breakfast line until about 9 a.m., and hordes of teenagers come into the cafeteria to get their morning coffee in order to awaken themselves of the coma that many find themselves in during first block. Then, she heads over to the snack room and begins to prepare the famous smoothies that so many students love.

Sharis works part-time at Andover High School, and makes sure that the snack room is in order before the students arrive. In addition to filling the room with the long list of snacks, she also holds other responsibilities. “I keep the room clean, and do dishes when those are full,” she says. “I do whatever needs to be done.”

Although both Corteau and Sharis both work in the snack room, the stories that brought them to Andover High School differ.

Corteau is not the first in her family to work in the Andover High School cafeteria. “My oldest son has down syndrome,” she says. “My mother worked in the snack bar here, so when she retired, I came here.” Corteau and her mother swapped roles in taking care of her son, and so she ended up at AHS nine years ago.

Sharis’s own family also brought her into the AHS community. “I live in Andover, and all three of my kids graduated from here,” she says. About ten years ago, Sharis was looking for a part-time job, and came across the ad on a cable channel. Despite the fact that Sharis retired a few years ago, she decided to come back. “I’ve been here ever since,” she says.

It is extremely evident that both Corteau and Sharis enjoy working together in the snack shack. Sharis says, “[My colleagues] are all very nice, and we all have a good working relationship.”

But according to the ladies, the best part of their jobs are the students at AHS themselves.  “[The students are] all so polite up here, I love it,” says Sharis. The feelings are mutual between the students and the women in the snack shack, since many of the students love the pair.

Leigh Burte, a junior, says, “They are so nice and so positive and I love talking to them—they always have a smile! I also love it when they dance and sing. They make me laugh.”

Even though working in a high school cafeteria may lack glamour, the staff still manages to bring a smile and positive attitude to their job. “I really love the kids, so that’s why I do it,” says Corteau.

By Mari Nagahara