Meet Your Neighbor: Crossing guard loves her job

Published 10:08 am Thursday, August 1, 2019

The first day of school is barely two weeks away in Clark County, which means a return to work for the district’s teachers, administrators and staff.

It also means school crossing guards are set to resume their duties throughout the county.

The City of Winchester recently announced it needs to hire more guards for the coming year.

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Mary Anne Smith, a nine-year veteran crossing guard and a Rhode Island native, usually works in front of the Clark County Preschool in the mornings and Shearer Elementary in the afternoons.

In between, she volunteers at the preschool.

They are jobs she never thought she would do, but she loves them both.

Winchester Sun: How long have you been a crossing guard?

Mary Anne Smith: Since my granddaughter was in kindergarten, so nine years now. When she first came to school, she was my job. When she started coming to school, I didn’t know what to do with myself so I started coming here every day. I was looking for a job at the same time. Someone mentioned this, I put my application in at the police department and that was that.

If you asked me about working with children 10 or 15 years ago, I would have said no way. I’d never work with children. Never say never.

This was Hannah McClure (Elementary) at the time. I’m finding out preschool makes a big difference. Then I come here, and these 3 and 4 year olds have so much to offer.

I started doing the one-on-one Great Leaps (program). The police department hired me at the same time, where I could do crossing guard in the morning, come in and work for five hours and go out and do crossing guard again.

There’s no place more I want to be. The children have so much joy in them, so I share that out there in the streets.

I’m out there every morning doing my double wave, smiling every day. Every once in a while you get feedback that you’ve made someone’s day.

WS: I’ve heard you have been known to dance and other things.

MAS: When I’m out there dancing, I’m praising God. I’m saying prayers, I’m saying Hail Marys, Our Fathers, singing K-LOVE songs. I don’t tell people that.

I get silly. It doesn’t matter.

Ten or 20 years ago, I was too self-conscious. When you get older, you find out you don’t care what people think any more.

I’ll do anything to put a smile on someone’s face.

There are people who have to go through their day, and they aren’t always happy in the mornings. They see me out there being silly, and it puts a smile on their face. Wherever they go, it puts a smile on their face and it dominoes.

That’s the big thing. If people see you happy, they’re going to be happy and it goes on and on. I think that’s why God put me there.

WS: How many kids will come through your intersections?

MAS: In the afternoon, I’m over at Shearer at Flanagan Street near the railroad tracks.

This past year, I had two boys only to make sure they get across the tracks. The year before that, I had six. Before that, it was four. I don’t know how many I’ll have this year.

Over there, I do bubble gum Friday. I have a big bag of bubble gum and everyone who walks by gets a piece of bubble gum. Kids, parents, it doesn’t matter. I just do it because I can.

WS: When I grew up lots of kids walked to school. I walked to school. At the preschool, they won’t walk by themselves. At Shearer, it sounds like most of them ride.

MAS: They ride the bus or they get dropped off. I don’t know why more aren’t walking. I  know they have to be local.

I’ve never had more than seven. They don’t walk as much as they used to. When this was Hannah McClure, I’d have 10 to 15 kids.

WS: Would you rather be out there in September when its warm or the middle of winter?

MAS: It doesn’t matter. I like it all. If its cold, I dress warm. If I have to bundle up, I bundle up. I’ll still be out there dancing. If it’s raining, you’ll get wet. I’ll twirl an umbrella around like Mary Poppins. I’ll do anything silly.

WS: What is the reward for being a crossing guard?

MAS: I see people being safe.

I notice when I’m not at school, I’m always watching for kids no matter what. It’s automatic.

Today, I was at Bargains on Broadway and this lady was crossing the street (and I waved her across). I said “It’s habit. I’m a crossing guard.”

The joy is knowing people are safe.

People do not watch out. They come around this one-way street the wrong way. They come around that corner flying all the time.

People need to slow down and be aware of what they’re doing.

And seeing the smiles on people’s faces. They’re going to have a better day.

For more information about becoming a crossing guard, apply at Winchester City Hall, 32 Wall St. the position is part-time and takes one to three hours a day.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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