Ed Iwasaka spends his day smiling. Even while he’s sweeping the floors or cleaning a bathroom, the maintenance operations worker at Hermosa View Elementary School always finds a way to laugh.
“I was sweeping the floor and I made a ‘moo’ sound,” said Iwasaka. “The kids started making the noise back at me— boy did I get a lot of teacher’s aids mad at me.”
Recently he stuck an eyeball sticker to the middle of his forehead.
“The kids looked at me and pointed and laughed and said ‘you have an extra eye,’” said Iwasaka. “I’m just a big kid.”
The 55-year-old father of two has worked at the Hermosa Beach School District for 13 years. As well as working for the district, he also currently works at Whole Foods and for two different farmer’s markets. Before coming to the district he worked for the Special Olympics for 18 years.
“I’ve been working two or more jobs since 1985,” he said. “My experience working with kids comes from working with the Special Olympics. I just enjoy being with them. They make you feel like you’re important. Sometimes I feel like a celebrity. They’re a lot of fun.”
Iwasaka lives in Torrance with his wife Kathy and daughters Irene and Rebecca. He has stayed in the district for many reasons, but most important are the people.
“The teachers and staff, they all take care of me,” Iwasaka said. “…It’s just a nice place to work. If you’re treated well, why would you want to go?”
For the staff at View, working with Iwasaka is the bright part of their day.
“He’s so fun and a very good worker,” co-worker Ileana Chaldez said. “He’s always doing something funny, like he’ll say, ‘Oh thank you for my lunch,’ and the kids will say, ‘Hey—that’s not for you.’”
Every year on his birthday he brings in lunch for the staff and makes sure everybody’s favorites are on the menu.
“He’s very generous,” said Principal Sylvia Gluck. “He always has a smile on his face, and he asks the kids if they need help when they’re struggling, which makes them feel special. Just to say ‘hi’ to somebody—especially five to seven year olds makes them feel important.”
Gluck said she thinks he does a good job of creating an atmosphere of friendliness and kindness. “Which is sometimes forgotten in this day and age,” Gluck added. “He’s just a very kind and generous person.”
Recently Gluck received candy and a note from Iwasaka.
“[The note] said, ‘These are for you, I’ve heard you had a very hard day,’” said Gluck, who also said that not only is he a great person, but he was also a fabulous worker.
“I basically do whatever they need and whatever I can do. I clean rooms, do work orders, change AC filters, anything,” said Iwasaka “The only thing that ever made me shaky was changing a hot outlet. I wanted to see if I could do it, and it was kind of fun.”
Iwasaka thinks that his job is easy compared to what the teachers have to do on a daily basis.
“I’ve learned to respect them. Their job is extremely difficult. People don’t realize the amount of hours they put in and the amount of work they take home,” Iwasaka said. “They do so many things; it’s remarkable.”
When he started working for the district, he originally worked at Valley and was able to see the kids grow up for two additional years.
“Here you only see them for three years, then they’re gone,” said Iwasaka. “There [at Valley] they grow and change. A lot of the kids grew up— I saw one today doing construction. He’s a really good kid.”
For the children at View, Iwasaka is just another big kid.
“I’m silly,” said Iwasaka. “I like to mess with them.”
One day while a class was quietly walking past, he started making faces at the students until they cracked up laughing.
“The teacher quickly turned around [to see who was making noise] and saw it was me,” he said with a grin. “It’s tough for me to be serious.”