By Debbie Adams
You probably don’t know her name. But if you are like me and pass Fallon Park Elementary school in Southeast Roanoke going from Vinton to Roanoke on school days, you are bound to know her face and her big smile. She is the crossing guard for Fallon Park, and a little later for John P. Fishwick Middle School a few blocks away. Her name is Candy Jackson.
Jackson is employed by Ellis Enterprises, not the school system, as Roanoke City Schools outsource the hiring of crossing guards. She has been in her position for about four years.
She is originally from Roanoke but moved to Waynesboro back in elementary school. She moved back to Roanoke about eight years ago. She and her family live in the area near the elementary school, and back then she would walk her daughter to school at Fallon each day.
She heard by word-of-mouth that another crossing guard was needed. The job fit her schedule since she is also a home healthcare provider, currently working with a client with Asperger’s syndrome. The crossing guard hours would give her time to work with her client between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. when she reports back to school for the afternoon shift. Her nine-year-old daughter is still a student at Fallon Park. The job also gives them a little extra time together each day.
Jackson’s hours are from about 7:10 to 7:45 or so at Fallon before she drives over to Fishwick where she directs traffic and students until about 9 a.m.
Her training for the position was on-the-job, although crossing guards do take refresher classes once a year to update them on rules, procedures, and report writing.
Jackson said her job can be challenging and even dangerous, although she has never been injured at work. People don’t always obey the traffic rules for driving in a school zone and sometimes ignore the school speed limit signs (15 mph) and pedestrian crossing signal lights.
Cold and rainy weather that leaves you soaked up to the knees is not pleasant, but that never seems to wipe the smile off Jackson’s face. She practically dances—though cautiously—into the intersection to stop traffic for children, turning cars, and buses.
She looks for gaps and openings in the traffic before pushing the flashing light signal at the pedestrian crossing which was added to the intersection about three years ago. She does her best to keep tractor trailer trucks moving on through without stopping. She raises her STOP sign high so that it’s visible to drivers and eases into traffic.
She doesn’t use a whistle; however, she does get the attention of motorists with her large “STOP” sign, friendly waves, and big grins. She wears a neon yellow vest which is difficult to miss—and a poncho on wet days.
Her job is not law enforcement per se; she doesn’t write tickets. She does check driver’s licenses and record license plates of offending drivers when necessary. Once she stopped a police car and also recalls thumping a car which wouldn’t stop with her STOP sign. She keeps traffic moving steadily and “tries to be fair,” in giving everyone their turn.
She says she is just a naturally cheerful person and always has been. She is a “people person,” and especially loves being around children. She gets to know the students who come and go morning and afternoon at the pedestrian crosswalk and is able to keep up with children who move up to Fishwick from Fallon Park.
She has become popular with school bus drivers and their passengers, who have been known to call out “Who’s the #1 bus driver?”
Jackson says she has received gifts which left her teary-eyed, from motorists, bus drivers, and parents who appreciate her hard work and good nature in a situation that could be physically dangerous or mentally trying. She has received gifts, cards, gift cards, and a beautiful scarf.
But she says the best gift is the smiles and waves from those she interacts with each day.