Last month, NewsWorks asked readers to nominate their favorite crossing guards in Northwest Philadelphia. We received six submissions from the public and got clearance to cover five of the nominees (one person did not return our call). This is the last entry in that series.
While heading to school one recent morning, seventh grader Tamire Allen reached out to hug his crossing guard, Wanda Taylor, before morning classes commenced.
“I have known him since he was a little boy,” said Taylor, a crossing guard for the past 13 years.” He shows respect by waiting to cross the street at the light and he says ‘hi’ every morning.”
Like Allen, hundreds of students pass Taylor to enter Francis D. Pastorius Elementary School each day at the corner of Chelten Ave. and Sprague St. in East Germantown.
Taylor has worked in nursing, and as a U.S. postal worker in the past. She said she loves this job the most because it involves working directly with children.
“The kids always speak [to me],” she said. “Their parents speak, and they listen to me.”
A day in the life
Taylor starts her day at 7:30 a.m., guarding children at her busy intersection until 9 a.m. Then, she’s off to Edward T. Steel Elementary in Nicetown to volunteer before returning to Pastorius for her afternoon duties.
“I am a busy-body,” she said when asked how she juggles the various responsibilities. “I always have to move around, talk to people, engage people and keep busy.”
On any given school day, Taylor can be found pacing back and fourth across walkways to all four corners, helping children get to school safely. Her disdain for winter temperatures does not dampen her love of the job.
“I usually have to double up on sweatshirts and pants,” she said, “but I have to come out here every day for these kids.”
When asked what makes a workday great, Taylor stated, “seeing kids actually follow the rules to cross the street or having an old student walk past and say hello.”
Since becoming a crossing guard, Taylor said she hasn’t had many safety issues while on duty at her intersection.
“The kids are usually fine,” she said. “It’s the drivers who get into accidents because they are impatient or something.”
However, a block up from Taylor’s post on Sprague Street, a first grader was struck by a vehicle last spring. In response, retired U.S postal service worker Diane Rhodes was stationed at the problem corner at the start of this school year.
Still, that incident left Taylor concerned that students need to better understand how to stay safe when walking to and from school.
“You have some kids that try to cross further down the street past the light, blatantly walk past when it’s not their turn or run out in the street while playing,” she continued. “You also have drivers who don’t pay attention. All of this has to be taken into consideration by everyone.”
A valued service
Walking her grandchildren to school, longtime resident Rosemarie Washington said she has known Taylor since her own children attended Pastorius a long time ago.
“It’s absolutely a good thing to have Wanda at this intersection,” she said.