A Familiar Face at the Corner

Rachel Carson Elementary School crossing guard Patty Frederick has helped students safely cross the intersection of Tschiffely Square Road and Kent Oaks Way for a decade. She plans to retire in June.

Every day at 8:20 a.m. and 3 p.m., Patty Frederick takes just a few steps from her Kentlands home and promptly assumes her post on the corner of Tschiffely Square Road and Kent Oaks Way as a crossing guard for Rachel Carson Elementary School (RCES). Neighborhood families know her by name, but even more impressive is that she knows theirs.

“I love it,” said Frederick. “I know 90 to 95 percent of the kids’ names … even their dogs’ names! I try to greet everyone who comes by.”

Frederick has been a crossing guard for more than 11 years. She was initially posted at Dufief Elementary School but was moved to RCES after a retiring guard recommended Frederick because of her close proximity to the post. At first, Frederick was the only guard for RCES, but a second was added a few years later due to an increase in the student population.

Before becoming a crossing guard, Frederick lived in Potomac with her son, who is on the autistic spectrum, and worked part-time in retail. “But I always wanted to be a crossing guard — ever since I was a little girl,” said Frederick. “I liked the cute outfits the lady crossing guards used to wear. They were like what flight attendants use to wear!”

Frederick said she had never investigated the job because she didn’t know where to begin and, back then, didn’t know how to use the Internet. But one day, as fate would have it, Frederick was in the checkout line at a nearby grocery store and overheard the cashier say she only worked at the store part-time because she was also a crossing guard for a local school.

“Being the busybody that I usually am, I [said], ‘What, what? Tell me about it!’”

The cashier gave her information, and soon Frederick was on her way to having her dream job.

The crossing guard post at RCES keeps Frederick on her toes for most school days of the year. On average, Frederick theorized she helps approximately 80 children walk through the intersection twice a day. She said the biggest factor impacting the crowd level is the weather.

“If it’s really cold or [there is precipitation], a much smaller number of children walk to and from school,” she said.

While she has had minor issues from time to time, Frederick has thus far kept her post under control and without any injuries to the children. “The way I look at it is that every one of these kids is like my own baby,” Frederick said. “I wouldn’t want to get a call that my child had been hurt.”

When asked what her favorite part of her job is, Frederick replied that it was watching the children grow up. “Its like [I’m] part of their lives,” she said. “After the summer, the kids have grown several inches — especially when they move from elementary to middle school. And I love seeing the kindergarteners because they are in awe of anyone in uniform. I like calling them ‘honey’ or ‘sweetheart.’ … It’s like a grandmotherly right of passage.”

Frederick said her advice to parents is to “enjoy every second with your kids because I see how fast they grow up.”

Until now, her crossing guard job has helped her with the empty nest syndrome she experienced when her son and daughter became adults. However, she will experience it anew when she retires at the end of the current school year. Frederick will then move to the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina with her son.

“It certainly is bittersweet,” she said with a wistful smile.