Keller hangs up the stop sign

By on July 31, 2019

“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years that I’ve been a crossing guard,” said Gloria Keller. “I applied because I knew I wanted something to do after the Moyer-Gerber plant closed in March of 1994.

Over the summer I saw an ad in the paper saying that crossing guards were needed for Ephrata Area School District.”

“We actually are employed by the Ephrata Borough Police,” said Keller. “I’ll always remember Chief William Harvey telling us during a training that we could be the first person a youngster sees and talks to in the morning. Say good morning, be kind,” Harvey stressed.

She said, “That’s one reason I took this job. I like children and stressed safety with them. Don’t step off the sidewalk until I tell you it is safe,” she recalls saying. “You never know when someone will try to run a red light so I made sure all traffic was stopped before I’d let children cross.”

The street crossing to which she’s referring is the only post she’s had &tstr; the corner of South State Street and Fulton Street.

Hired in the fall of 1994, Keller served her first year as a substitute crossing guard. Following that, Fulton School closed and was under construction.

“I was assigned to the Brossman medical complex where students from Fulton would gather to be bussed to other schools. I helped them cross the street and board their busses.”

When asked what she thinks are requirements for a school crossing guard, Keller, who turned 85 on May 1, quickly said, “Well, you can’t mind the cold, for one thing.”

“My corner was windy and cold. Looking back, some days it was like a hurricane when I was working,” Keller said.

Crossing guards are on duty for 45 minutes each morning and 45 minutes each afternoon. Keller stressed how thoughtful parents and motorists were over the years.

“One very cold morning, a woman stopped and gave me a pair of hand warmers. Many times motorists offered me a cup of coffee. That was very kind but this job isn’t really conducive to drinking a cup of coffee,” Keller said.

“I like kids, even the naughty ones,” said Keller. “Very rarely did I have students who wouldn’t listen. However, we could write up students who wouldn’t listen and then the school principal would get involved.”

Josh McCracken, principal at Fulton Elementary, received high praise from Keller for knowing his students well and always being willing to assist with a situation.

Gloria Keller retired after 25 years working as a crossing guard. Submitted photos.

Gloria Keller “in action” helping children cross the street.

“And the principal before him, Gary Oberly, was great to work with too,” said Keller.

Returning to the topic of job requirements, Keller said children like consistency and she was a person on whom they could count.

Being modest about her excellent attendance, Keller said she’s fortunate to enjoy good health. Crossing guards get a list of names to contact if they need a substitute. If none of the subs are available, then the crossing guard calls the School Resource Officer, Officer Paul Moore, their immediate supervisor.

“He’s a good person to work for,” Keller said. He comes around and checks on things and is available if you have questions.

After pondering when she’d needed a sub, Keller said when her spouse died, she called in. Then she added, “And last spring, when my grandson was running track, I got a sub the afternoons of home track meets. I knew ahead of time, made a list of the dates and phoned the substitute.”

“I’ve always liked to get up and go in the morning. I liked being around the kids every morning,” said Keller.

In the morning, children would appear at her corner by themselves, or perhaps in groups of two or three. There was time to get to know children’s names and to help them start their day on a positive note. After school, most children arrived in larger groups.

“Of course you’d always have your stragglers, or children who stayed a little later to get something or talk with someone. That’s why it’s important to stay on duty until you know all your children crossed safely on their way home,” Keller said.

Are children different today than 25 years ago? Keller replied that today’s kids are exposed to so much more at younger ages that she finds kids are more “street wise.” However, basically kids are kids and there are certain behaviors that are typical of kids at certain ages.

Keller talks with a twinkle in her eye and energy to spare. She says that “it’s time to retire. A person knows when that time comes. When my grandsons, Noah and Nicholas Keller, were born, I felt I probably wouldn’t be working as a crossing guard when they went to school. Now one grandson is entering ninth grade and one seventh.”

“I want to say thank-you to so many people,” Keller said as the interview concluded. “Most motorists were wonderful. The students’ parents were good people and expressed their thanks to me many times in many ways. Officer Moore, Chief Harvey and the school principals were always supportive. But most of all, I’ll miss the kids I’d see every day.”

Alice Hummer is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 


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