January 19, 2024

In the public eye: Manchester School crossing guard strives to keep children safe

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles

By Masha Yurkevich

Every school day for the past year and a half, Betty Van Vliete steps out into the middle of Route 302 to control the traffic and allow buses, cars, and pedestrians to safely get into Manchester School in Windham.

Betty Van Vliete is a familiar
face for many in her work as a
 crossing guard on Route 302
allowing buses, cars and
students to safely enter the
grounds of Manchester
School in Windham. She has
worked in traffic control for
the Windham Fire and
Police Departments for the
past 26 years.
Betty has resided in Windham for 28 years and she greets every day with a smile despite putting her life on the line for the safety of the children and the community.

Originally from Westbrook, Betty has three grown children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She’s been with the Windham Fire and Police Department for 26 years where she helps traffic, setting up roadblocks and helping traffic get through during crashes.

“I think what else really helps me with this job is that I am not intimidated by the busy traffic and dangerous roads,” she says. “I was trained by Mr. Peasley, he was our team captain.”

Her time with the Windham Fire and Police Department has taught her that safety precautions come first, and she knows how to space cars so that she can step out safely and let the buses though from Manchester School.

When Betty lived in Westbrook, she was the team leader of the Westbrook Crossing Guards where she was for two years before moving to Windham.

“I always thought that if this job opened, I would love to have it,” said Betty. “And I guess someone heard my prayers. I like helping people. I like all aspects of my job. I just enjoy what I do.”

Betty said that getting people to slow down is the most challenging part of what she does, sometimes because drivers may not see her but also because some are inattentive and simply don’t pay attention.

“I’m a mom, I’m a grammie, I’m auntie, and I’d like to go home,” says Betty. “I like keeping people safe, but I want to go home, too, and be safe, standing by for a few minutes while the children cross the road or while the buses drive out.”

Betty’s job demands that she be aware of potential situations at all times.

“When you step out into that road, you have to have eyes on the back of your head to be aware and look out for anything and everything,” she said. “There’s no need to rush. It’s not just one specific driver, sometimes drivers just have so much on their minds and are in a hurry, but they need to slow down and be attentive. I love the kindness of some of the parents, the teachers, the bus drivers, and the staff.”

It fills her heart when she sees waves and smiles and makes her feel appreciated for what she does.

Parents say that they are very glad to have a crossing guard who is so devoted in what she does and always goes the extra mile to keep the chaos under control on Route 302 during such a busy commute. Parents also say that it takes one brave woman to be out there in the middle of the road in some of the crazy weather conditions.

Galina Mulin, whose son attends Manchrester School, says that it’s nice to see such dedicated people such as Betty.

“Betty doesn’t do it for the money but does it because she wants to make a difference in the community,” says Mulin. “I hope she will continue to serve Manchester School kids for many more years to come.”

Manchester School Assistant Principal Kristal Vargo-Ward says that Betty is just wonderful at what she does.

“She has a great personality and great thinking about the safety of our students, parents, and bus drivers. Her focus and priority are safety. She does a wonderful job; it's a busy place out there in the mornings and afternoons. We couldn't’ do this without Betty and I want to emphasize how fortunate we are to have her. Her job may sometimes be overlooked, and we don’t see her in person every day, but she plays a huge role and is an important member of our community and school. She is perfect for this job, and we are beyond fortunate to have her.”

For Betty, she’s pleased doing what she does.

“I like keeping people safe and I like working for the community, I love to give back,” she said. “I see the little kids on the school buses smiling and waving, and I love it so much. Sometimes a passerby will stop and give me a hot coffee.” <

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