PEORIA, AZ — Janice Van Winkel put on the florescent vest and grabbed a stop-paddle for the first time last week.
The Peoria mother of two, taking a new job as a crossing guard at her son's elementary school.
"I've always thought, 'What a fun... opportunity to do that,'" Van Winkel said. "Because you get to know the kids, their families and just kind of direct them to school and you're just apart of their morning and afternoon."
Van Winkel is one of the roughly 250 crossing guards who attended a voluntary "Crossing Guard Training" workshop, sponsored by the Maricopa Association of Governments.
Three different three-hour training courses were held in Phoenix, Peoria, and Scottsdale and were free to those interested in learning how to better keep students and themselves safer while on the job.
"People do think it's easy to be a crossing guard until you've done it," said Peoria Assistant City Traffic Engineer Brandon Forrey.
Forrey said the course focuses on the rules of the road, but also discusses how to assess situations and make quick decisions.
"It's not black and white," Forrey explained. "And things don't always go by the books and people don't always obey the laws. So, we need to make sure that they both know the laws, but know what they can do to keep the kids safe and themselves safe even when people don't obey those laws."
Van Winkel said she is trying to take note of every piece of information she learned in the course, while also remembering the other part of the job -- giving students a great start to the day.
"Maybe some of them, I would be the first face that they see in the morning... because mom and dad are at work," Van Winkel said. "So, I think starting out with a smile and 'Hi - good morning,' I think that could help a lot too."
If you missed the training, some of the instructional materials are available to view online .
Have a road issue or question you would like Operation Safe Roads to look into? You can call (833) AZROADS or e-mail,