Island Park Elementary School

Absences:206-236-3411 Phone:206-236-3410

Principal's Message

  • Making Espresso—Again

    (A Metaphor to Usher in the New Year)

    I love espresso. When properly extracted, the small shot of viscous, syrupy coffee is nothing short of heaven to my taste buds. Espresso is coffee in its purest, most intense and concentrated form.  In relation to a full cup of coffee, it is a simple slurp, a golden shot of finely ground java usually created in less than thirty seconds.  Espresso making is both art and science. Like a chemist or physicist, the barista’s knowledge of the temperature, pressure and time interplay is crucial to producing a desired alchemy. 

    I’ve interacted with shots of espresso for decades. It is a daily ritual, an admittedly privileged extravagance, practiced each morning before I leave for work, a cause for celebration or commitment to a better shot tomorrow.  But it always comes down to the essence of any cup of Joe—a terrific thimbleful of espresso that, no matter how many times I’ve drawn a shot, can always be improved.  

    Last summer, my jolt-of-java experimentation literally shorted out. My espresso machine went kaput.  No machine. No caffeine. “No problem,” I thought. “This is Seattle, one of the coffee capitals of the United States, the headquarters of a certain coffee conglomerate. How hard will it be to find someone to fix my machine?”  

    I easily located an espresso machine repair service near Safeco Field, schlepped my machine (it weighs close to 100 pounds) down to what looked like a deserted warehouse and engaged in a quick curb side touch-free hand-off due to COVID protocols. I drove away and eagerly awaited the quick return of my machine and espresso making days.  

    And then I waited and waited and waited.  Each week I called the repair department for an update.  When someone returned my call, I was told that broken machines were in a holding pattern due to a COVID-related worker shortage. Then, my machine’s broken part was on back order from Italy due to a COVID-related supply chain issue. Then, the manufacturer in Italy was shut down due to COVID.  Finally, the crucial part was no longer being manufactured due to a metal shortage.  

    I was frustrated. I was in disbelief. I was mourning my daily routine. I was desperate and forced to find new ways to make coffee.  Like my machine, I shorted out. I became uncivil.  Convinced that I had entrusted my beloved espresso maker to a sham shop (after all, I had never actually stepped foot in the place of business) and that my espresso machine was probably now a heap of parts, nut by bolt being sold on the black coffee market, I made one more exasperated phone call blaming the ills of the world on an unknown repair person. Not my finest hour, I’m ashamed to admit. 

    Then, a few days before Christmas, the shop located a substitute part. The service department relayed that the new circuitry would bring my machine back to life, but not restore it to its original out-of-the-box perfection. The machine would still make delightful coffee, but with a few cosmetic imperfections. 

    I green lighted the fix.

    I have spent my winter vacation getting to know my trusted friend again. I bought fresh coffee, recalibrated my grinder, reprogramed my machine’s temperature output, and cleaned the brew head and steamer.  While my technique, like the bag of coffee beans from last September, was a bit stale, it came back, slowly but surely.  Yes, a few superficial bells and whistles don’t ring and sing like before, but all ‘n all, the machine is purring like a cat and producing near-perfect espresso.  

    Our school experience, these past few months—and years—is not dissimilar to my espresso adventure. Never one to waste a good shot of espresso or metaphor, please allow me to elaborate.  

    In March, 2020, our way of doing school (and life) shorted.  No one could have imagined that nearly two (yes, two!) years later we would still be rebuilding the machine.  School routines that we took for granted—in-person attendance, no face masks, learning in close proximity, eating lunch shoulder-to-shoulder, fieldtrips, volunteering, family events, and a host of other endearing practices, rituals and customs have, over time, ended, been modified or thankfully reinstated.

    We have found new ways to learn, teach, study, and draw from our experiences.  We have also discovered that nothing can replace the day-to-day human contact and interaction that is found within a known and beloved system.  Staff work best when they can directly work with students and each other, in a milieu that is familiar and collaborative. More importantly, children need to interact with peers. The inevitable friction, dare I say – daily grind, of experiencing school and age-appropriate conflict is essential to producing a robust and fully realized soon-to-be adult.   

    And like coffee making science, we need to continue adjusting the temperature and pressure exerted upon our children. Accelerated academics without measured doses of emotional and social interventions can cause bitter results.  Our children are delicate human beans who are worthy of our measured actions so that their sweet and unique essence is brought forth daily. 

    Overall, the major cogs and levers of school are working fine—yes there exist a few imperfections—but our kids are happy and learning well. Our staff is, more than ever, dedicated to their art. But we are discovering that we are not the same people that we were, months and years ago. Like my interaction with a certain repair person, we occasionally find ourselves anxious, tired, impatient, and short-tempered. In part this is because we have all been through great change, but also because we don’t know each other like we did in years past. We are often just mask-wearing strangers who perform curbside drop-off and pick up or connect as Zoom participants or email correspondents. School events that gave us the opportunity to meet and greet each other, face to face, to schmooze and connect have been put on hold.  I look forward to the day, sooner than later, when we can congregate again as a learning community to play BINGO, dance, eat and better get to know each other.

    Until then, it is great to see volunteers again assisting students and staff.  I enjoy seeing families outside of school at the start and end of each day. I invite you, if you feel comfortable, to set up an office visit with me to discuss concerns, ask questions or celebrate achievements. We may need to mask up and verify vaccination status, but nothing replaces a face to face conversation to facilitate mutual understanding.  

    Finally, I am proud to share, that Island Park continues to be more than a building or a perceived warehouse wherein we produce one desired product.  We are a vibrant, diverse learning community of hard working learners—all of us.  When you enter Island Park you see and feel a message of dedicated service and observable learning.  Walk the halls and visit classrooms and rejoice in student artwork, writing, messages of inclusion, student leadership, and a myriad of messages displaying cognitive and social growth and positive interactions. We are inclusive and united in our vision to care for, honor and respectfully challenge each other. 

    And, as life-long learners, we are ready to give it a better shot tomorrow.  

    As we usher in a new calendar year, let’s re-commit ourselves to producing that better and sweeter cup of espresso each and every school day; a mixture of visible learning and celebrated student achievement.  Let’s continue to send the message to our children that they have greatness inside of them and must care for each other. Let that positive spirit continue to guide our own words and actions. Yes, we are still experiencing a pandemic.  Yes, there will be shortages and other set-backs.  But it has always been in our nature to eagerly fine-tune the machine, pursue improvement, seek optimal results, and happily try new techniques—always with the knowledge that we are producing a pretty amazing and tasty result.  

    Happy New Year!


    David Hoffman






About Island Park

  • Island Park is one of four elementary schools in the Mercer Island School District. It is located in the middle of the island, at 5437 Island Crest Way.

    Principal David Hoffman and Associate Principal Tara Eanzy lead a staff of 65 who serve approximately 425 students. We are host of the district's English Language Learners (ELL) program and Personalized Learning Program (PLP) for students with special learning needs. Other special programs include a Special Education Resource Room; Counseling, LAP (remedial reading); technology integrated classrooms; music, art, Spanish, library, and PE specialists; technology TOSAs; a tuition-based foreign language program; student council; before school choir, band and orchestra programs; and after school clubs including chess and art clubs.

    Island Park uses district adopted curriculum as the foundation for its instructional program. Individual teachers and/or grade level teams assess students' needs and adapt instruction as necessary for learning to occur. Teachers frequently integrate material from several disciplines to make learning more meaningful for students.

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