Unsung Heros of Joy: Courtney Tyler & Miriam Magaña

Unsung Heros of Joy: Courtney Tyler & Miriam Magaña

We’ve all been there: maybe a test goes awry, your friends are fighting or you’re just overwhelmed by life. During times like these, it’s important to cling to the little moments of hope and happiness in your day instead of the negatives. When a student looks a bit closer, they’ll be able to discover sources of happiness everywhere on the Menlo campus. From gummy worms in a candy jar to a warm and welcoming office space, students will find how brightly these unsung heroes of joy shine.

Courtney Tyler’s Candy Jar

Students ducking into administrative assistant Courtney Tyler’s office often emerge with a plethora of different candies ranging from tart Lemonheads to crispy KitKats. All of these sweets come from Tyler’s candy jar atop her desk. According to Tyler, on one particular day, she counted a grand total of 54 sweet-treat-seeking students in her office.

The idea of a candy jar initially emerged in Tyler’s previous job supervising tour guides at the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park. “[The guides] would come up to my desk and check in with me, and at one point I just started having a candy jar with Red Vines [at my desk] and the response from them was really great,” Tyler said. 

She noticed that the jar could connect her with others who came by; even if they weren’t there to see her exclusively, Tyler found that they would often take a piece of candy. “Even in between their tours, they would come down and get some Red Vines or something,” she said. “I found really quickly that it was a good touch point with people.” 

Her current candy jar, unlike her jar with the Giants, has a long and meaningful history. One of Tyler’s favorite tour guides, Connie Tse, had been a teacher for 30 years and had her own candy jar in her classroom to motivate her students.

Eventually, as Tyler made her way to Menlo, Tse decided to give her that iconic jar previous Menlo students knew and loved to share the joy with a new generation. “[Tse] thought I needed a legit candy jar, and the one I have here is one that was gifted to me from her,” Tyler said. 

However, the jar had actually belonged to someone else before Tse. Tse had taught with a woman named Patty McNally at Ocean Shore School in Pacifica. McNally was the original owner of the candy jar and passed away from illness. 

“It has really deep meaning to me, which I’m sure not many people probably know about,” Tyler said. 

Ever since Tyler assumed her current role three years ago, the jar has been a popular source of happiness for both Tyler and students. 

“Almost immediately, I saw that it was bringing students into our space,” she explained. “[Upper School Assistant Director Adam] Gelb wasn’t there at the time, but even in his first few months here he noticed how unusual it is for so many students to come into the administrators’ office.” 

Initially, it was just fellow colleagues and faculty that came to grab candy. As students caught wind, however, there was no stopping them.

“It’s a perfect way for me to interact with the students […] it brings me so much joy,” she said. “When I hear students being like, ‘I just took the hardest math test,’ or ‘I just need some candy,’ it makes me feel good to know that, one, they have a space they can go to decompress or simply get some sugar for a pick-me-up, and two, that I have been able to build relationships with students who now stop by frequently to come see me and say hi, whether they want candy or not. It really makes my day.” 

Thanks to the candy jar, Tyler has made close connections with Menlo students and feels extremely fulfilled in her job. She will continue to replenish the jar with sour candy, the students’ favorite and 100 Grand, her personal treat of choice.

Miriam Magaña’s Office 

 Wedged between the bathrooms and a math classroom on the B building’s second floor lies the office of a woman who — as is apparent from the moment one enters the room — is obsessed with houseplants. Leafy Monstera deliciosa, sprouting fiddle-leaf figs and vibrant orchids all serve to calm Director of Family Support Miriam Magaña and contribute to her goal of promoting self-care through the space. 

“Plants are my self-care, and filling the space with plants makes me feel good […] they are the gift that keeps on giving,” Magaña said.

Magaña has set up her office to feel calm and welcoming for anyone who walks in. To accomplish this, she provides a variety of comforts such as a coffee and tea kettle, stuffed monkeys on couches, snacks and, of course, lots of plants. Adorning the back wall of Magaña’s office is the Self-Care Corner, with various beauty and self-care products.

“I feel like my space is often not the go-to space, it’s the in-between space for students to stay momentarily,” Magaña said. “I get a lot of students who try to check in with [the counselors] but if they’re in a session, [students] can always come here.”

Overall, Magaña sees her office as an extension of other places, including the counseling space, where she provides students snacks, solitude and a place for Self-Care Club meetings. Freshman Ammie Mills started the Self-Care Club in her eighth-grade year at Menlo Middle School and brought it to the Upper School this year. 

Magaña’s job is multifaceted. Much of her work involves families who may not have access to all the support and resources they need. 

“One part is ensuring that families have everything they need in order to feel engaged in a part of their child’s journey here at Menlo,” she said. “I’m really passionate about the system level work [as well], where, for example, we establish strong translation and interpretation services to ensure all of our families can stay connected.”

To support families, Magaña feels that she has to really get to know their kids. She has connected with many students not just through her office, but through her other extracurriculars as well.

“I started Homework Club with [Middle School Learning Specialist Frankie] Machado […] and that’s how I’ve gotten to know so many of the middle schoolers. Homework Club has been a really big hit, with a lot of high school students helping the middle school students,” she said. 

Magaña has brought small cohorts of middle schoolers to tour her office, letting them know that she is always there in case they ever need snacks after school or a place to be.

Magaña is thrilled knowing that she has brought lots of joy to many Menlo families and students. 

“I never want anyone to feel like they have to give us anything in return. Just seeing those relationships that we’re building and the impact that we’re making in the lives of students — it’s the force behind everything that I do,” Magaña said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Sienna Lew
Sienna Lew, Opinions Editor

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 2

Favorite aspect of journalism: discovering new things about our diverse community through the stories I pursue

Interests outside of school: poetry and creative writing, running, listening to music, hanging out with friends and family, mock trial

Class of 2026

Amber More
Amber More, Creative Director

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 1

Favorite aspect of journalism: watching everything come together from the first draft to print

Interests outside of school: rock climbing, Pop Culture, and Formula 1

Class of 2025

Comments (0)

The Coat of Arms encourages dialogue with our audience. We welcome constructive comments that avoid slander, hate, profanity and misinformation. In an effort to give voice to a variety of perspectives, anonymous comments will be considered, but signed comments are preferred. If you would like to submit an anonymous comment, please write "Anonymous" in the "Name" field below. While a valid email address is required, The Coat of Arms will not publish your email address. The Editorial Board will review comments and decide whether they will be put online; the editors reserve the right to edit for concision.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *