If school’s in session you can count on finding Mary Derwinski at the corner of Mill Street and Douglas Avenue at exactly 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. every weekday.
As a crossing guard for District 203, it’s Mary’s job to get the kids to and from school safely. It’s what she’s done since 2009 as a way to keep busy when her daughter started high school.
“So I figured they’d just hand me a stop sign and send me out to the corner, but no. At that time we were trained by the Police Department, I was actually employed by the Police Department until just this year, and we had a very thorough physical, hearing, sight everything else, drug test the whole shebang,” explained Derwinski.
Quickly she realized there was a bit more to the job and technique that came along with it.
“I worked with Community Service Officers a couple of days and then finally I was able to be out on my own. And it was scary because you know stepping out in traffic not so calm, but there are techniques: put the sign out sideways and then slowly raise it,” said Derwinski.
But standing on a street corner everyday can be a bit boring, so Mary decided to change up the game.
“Okay so 185 fish walk into a bar, and the bartender says ‘get out of here we don’t serve your kind ’and the fish say wait, ‘we’ve been waiting with baited breath,’” she joked to one student.
Besides attempting to learn every kid’s name, as part of her daily routine Mary tells jokes as a mental exercise and a way to connect with the kids.
“I went to this improv workshop, it took me three years to go to one session and one of the exercises they gave us, the format is: 185 blank walk into a bar and then that’s the joke. So most days I try to come up with a joke about something while I’m standing there at the corner, it’s good mental exercise, the kids get a joke and some of them are bad, they groan,” said Derwinski.
While it may be simple in nature, some kids jump at the opportunity to get their joke of the day.
“The thing that’s so wonderful about a position like mine is that the kids see you everyday, and they see you for a little while and they tell you stuff, like my own children never told me anything. But I often get a lot of information about their lives, or school, or about this or that, so it’s wonderful to listen,” added Derwinski.
Sending students off with a smile and a laugh
Mary helps cross students from Washington Junior High School and 5th graders who now attend the school.
Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.