The parents who just dropped off their children get a smile and a wave.
The teachers on their way to work get a smile and a wave.
So do the bus drivers, the retirees, the truck drivers and plumbers and electricians and construction workers.
The students and other pedestrians?
They get a smile, a wave and a little extra: help across the street.
It’s all in a day’s work for Mike Lovejoy,
Sequim School District’s crossing guard and essentially the living, breathing – and almost always smiling – face of Sequim schools.
From the busiest half-hour before school starts and another busy 30 minutes when school lets out, Lovejoy is there helping students get home, buses make unimpeded paths to their routes, and adults get safe passage toward and away from town.
Everyone who wants some good cheer gets exactly that.
The greeting? Not much of a mystery, says the 44-year-old para-educator, a teacher’s aide for Sequim’s special needs students.
"I thought, ‘I’m just going to start waving,’" Lovejoy recalls after one day at work earlier this school year.
A substitute teacher’s aide three years ago, Lovejoy was hired for a full-time position in 2007. Last fall, staffers asked if he wanted to add crossing guard to his list of responsibilities.
It was that simple. Now each school day Lovejoy makes the bold step out into traffic to make sure students and other pedestrians, bicyclists and the occasional motorized cart rider gets east or west on Fir Street or north or south on Sequim Avenue.
"I get to know the kids by name," he says. "I ask how their day is going."
The job isn’t terribly dangerous, Lovejoy says, save the occasional drivers who are talking on cell phones.
"Most people are good," he says, about staying safe at the intersection.
The most dangerous traffic, he says, comes from the south – from downtown Sequim — and the most frustrated drivers are the ones trying to get across or onto Sequim Avenue from Fir.
"They have to wait a long time," Lovejoy says sympathetically.
And then there’s the waving and smile. The teacher’s aide says it just comes naturally.
"If I don’t wave, people might think, ‘What’s up?’" Lovejoy says.
He makes sure that everyone gets a wave, particularly students on buses from out-of-area schools.
Lovejoy was born in California and grew up in University Place near Tacoma, where he still has family. After working as a mental health case manager in Utah, Lovejoy took a job in Tacoma years ago and then came to Sequim in 2003.
Lovejoy, who lives with his wife, Lynelle, a dog and two cats in Sequim, enjoys riding bikes and traveling.
He had hoped to find a job working with youths, and he found it in Sequim’s special needs classroom. When he’s not waving and smiling at the corner of Fir Street and Sequim Avenue, Lovejoy is helping the district’s special needs students with math homework or physical education, assisting certain students as they eat their lunch or with their personal hygiene habits.
For one period each day he helps out in one of Steve Brown’s SDI (specially-designed instruction) classes.
Then it’s time to pull on the orange gloves and a grin.
On this day, a cool May morning, Lovejoy steps into the intersection that’s humming with traffic seven times, sees four students, three pedestrians, a bus and more than 80 cars – in just five minutes.
Lovejoy says he has no plans to quit the crossing guard position, nor the spreading of good cheer.
"I’ll do it for a while … if they’ll let me."
Lovejoy received a Reduction-in-Force notice this May, part of the district’s budget cutbacks. Lovejoy said he hopes to be hired back by the fall.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.