by George J Elbaum
Islander Middle School (IMS) is the only public middle school (grades 6 thru 8) on Mercer Island. Its enrollment is approximately 1100 students with 28% minority. IMS utilizes district-adopted curriculum as the foundation for its core classes as well as offering a variety of engaging learning electives, and it clearly succeeds in this task as it’s ranked an impressive 10th of 441 Washington middle schools. The school’s mission statement, “We strive to ensure a challenging, relevant and engaging experience where every student is able to advance to a greater level of understanding, ability and performance,” clearly extends beyond only academics, as it prepares its students to “thrive in today’s cognitive, digital, and global world while sustaining their passion and inspiration for learning.”
In addition to academics, IMS has a strong social and societal focus, presenting and promoting subjects such as race and equality, civil rights, and other current issues of our society. The monthly Principal’s Message on its website also includes down-to-earth advice for students, such as use and misuse of social media, and a monthly Character Trait Dare, such as honesty, forgiveness, etc, with specific suggestions for students to test themselves on that trait.
As part of the school’s societal focus I was invited to speak about my Holocaust childhood to the 8th grade class (approx. 300 students) as I did last year. Unlike last year, however, the audience staggered into the gym/auditorium over a 10-15 min. period, and only when I was 10-15 min. before ending was I told to finish in a minute or two. It was a partial consolation that a Q&A session had been planned, as last year, in another room with about half of the total audience, and with this group I could not only finish the presentation but also continue into a very productive Q&A session.
The event was again organized by Language Arts teacher Joseph Gushanas and introduced to the audience by Co-Principal Mary Jo Budzuis. As last year, my presentation at IMS was arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Research Coordinator, Holocaust Center for Humanity.