Head: Crossing guard known for upbeat attitude
By Monique Harrison
A series of hard knocks forced Rosie Douglas to accept a job as Thomas Street Elementary’s crossing guard three years ago.
But that fact is far from obvious to anyone who watches Douglas direct traffic during the hectic opening and closing hours of school.
“She’s just fun,” said 9-year-old Kaz Jenkin. “She dances. She’s really good. We like to just watch her sometimes.”
Douglas is notorious for her animated traffic-directing techniques.
She dances and gyrates as she waves some travelers through and directs others to stop.
And she does it all with a smile.
“She’s the same no matter what the weather or what’s going on,” said Thomas Street principal Janie Conway. “She’s always smiling and she’s always very friendly. She’s a bright spot in our day. It’s a good way for us to start our day and it’s a good way for other people who drive through her to start the day.”
Plenty of worries
Although Douglas can usually be seen smiling as she works, her life is far from worry-free.
She’s a single mom with three children, ranging in age from seven to 16.
Her youngest son, Zachary, has Down’s Syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
In 1994, Zachary had a particularly tough time and was hospitalized several times.
“I missed a lot of work and I lost my job,” the former factory worker said. “I was devastated.”
Struggling to make ends meet, she accepted the part-time crossing guard job.
From her first day on the job, Douglas was dancing and smiling.
“I see so many sad little faces in the morning,” Douglas said. “They get up in the morning and they are sleepy. They aren’t ready to go to school. I try to get them going and to make them happy – to brighten their faces. It makes me happy to see them happy. And it makes my job a lot more enjoyable. There’s no reason for me to be an old prune all the time.”
Students have responded well to Douglas’ energy and warmth.
“They think Ms. Rosie is just wonderful,” Conway said. “The children love to see her and even to talk to her.”
In the morning, Douglas greets students by telling them to have a good day and to study hard.
“She talks to us and sometimes she hugs us,” said LaToya McKinney, 10. “She likes us.”
In the afternoon, Douglas asks youngsters how their day went.
“They really do tell me if they had a good day or a bad one,” Douglas said, smiling. “They talk to me.”
Cards and more
Youngsters often give the crossing guard gifts.
“On special days, some of us give her things,” said 10-year-old Rebecca West. “I’ve given her Valentine’s Day cards and a breakable eagle.”
Other students have given Douglas cookies and handmade cards.
“Those cards and things mean a lot to me,” Douglas said. “It’s nice of the children to remember me.”
But Douglas said she gets frustrated at times.
“I wish I could do more for my children – especially for Zach,” Douglas said. “And I wish I could do more for the children of Thomas Street. There are so many things I wish I could do to help them. it’s hard to explain how I feel about the children at that school. It’s like they are my own. I care what happens to them.”
Douglas said there is one thing people could do to make her day brighter.
“Some people get an attitude when they are driving,” Douglas said, laughing. “They don’t follow my directions and they get mad. And some people get mad at other drivers. I just wish people would be more considerate. Especially when it comes to areas where there are a lot of children around.”