Newsworthy Neighbor: Crossing guard helps brighten days by wearing different hats

Cindy Dean points to her Whale of a Good Summer hat that she plans to wear on one of the last days of school at Mae Richardson Elementary. (KTVL/Mike Marut)

Cindy Dean wears many hats - literally and figuratively.

"I have 'my doggone it it's Monday' hat!" Cindy says. "I might wear that for a Monday."

Figuratively, she wears hats by being a crossing guard, but also being a confidant for students at Mae Richardson Elementary School.

"It's heartbreaking sometimes," Cindy says. "You hear the good, the bad and the ugly sometimes in a short amount of time. You learn that you have to be careful what you say - and not to be judgmental and not to pry and not to ask questions."

From Principal Lynn Scott's perspective, Cindy provides a great pick-me-up to start the day.

"The morning starts really well for a lot of kids because she's the first person they see - the first school person," Scott says.

Cindy started her crossing guard duties 10 years ago, but has been working at the school for 13 years.

"This is not the job anybody wants," Cindy says. "I thought, 'well, you know, I do whatever I'm told, but I decided to make it my own."

Cindy took over the responsibilities after two crossing guards before her left some serious shoes to fill.

"Jan Mack who still volunteers even after she's retired," Cindy says. "Jan Mack is amazing - she's here every Wednesday. Then Joanne Peterson - another amazing woman who was here just before me. ... They were here all of 20 years or more so you can't replace that experience."

Cindy makes the job her own with the hats she physically wears every day.

"I said as long as people are going to stare at me, I'm going to give them something to look at and make it more entertaining for myself and the children," Cindy says.

She also simply has a way of connecting with the kids.

"She's really fun to talk to and she's really cool and it's just fun seeing her every day," Dominic Cardoza, a 5th grade student who has seen Cindy ("Miss Dean") most days at Mae Richardson, says. "She becomes your friend and you just want to just keep talking to her like every day."

"Those kids really appreciate, I think, that she's smiling and hugging and saying good morning," Scott says. "She's taught them to say good morning back so we don't just walk past somebody when they say good morning, say good morning back."

If you're out in Central Point, look for Miss Dean wearing a funky hat, especially as the school year comes to a close.

"This is my HAVE A WHALE OF A GOOD SUMMER!" Cindy says with laughter. "You've got to have a whale of a good summer hat!"

The Whale of a Good Summer hat is actually one of Cindy's originals. When she first started crossing guard duty, she had a new hat for every school day.

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