Deerfield crossing guard marks 37 years

  • School crossing guard Sharyn Paciorek, left, talks with 3-year-old Kensington Huddy, center, and sister Piper Huddy, 5, right, last week on North Main Street in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • School Crossing Guard Sharyn Paciorek talks with Tammy Huddy and children, 5 year-old Piper Huddy and 3 year-old Kensington Huddy, Thursday, on North Main Street in South Deerfield, Aug. 31, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

For the Bulletin
Sunday, September 10, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Five-year-old Piper Huddy, clutching the straps to an oversized flowery backpack, paused for a few minutes on a recent morning to greet crossing guard Sharyn Paciorek at North Main and Pleasant streets.

“What are you going to do today?” asked Paciorek, wearing a yellow neon reflective jacket, not far from Galenski Farms’ vegetable stand.

Paciorek has been making sure children get to school safely for nearly four decades.

“Push the stroller,” Piper replied, grasping tall stroller handles carrying her 3-year-old sister, Kensington. The two trundled down the sidewalk toward South Deerfield’s center into early sunshine.

“We love Sharyn, she’s awesome — we can’t let a day go by without stopping to hug Mrs. P,” said Tammy Huddy, Piper and Kensington’s mother.

They were out on a “test run” getting ready for Piper’s first day of preschool next week, Huddy said.

Last Aug. 30’s first day of school in the Union 38 District marked Paciorek’s 37th year on the job, employed by the school. Her crossing guard watch began unintentionally in 1980.

“John (Paciorek, her husband) was in the military; kids were little; and I was a stay-at-home mom,” Paciorek recalled.

She began volunteering with the local police department, and was soon recruited into crossing guard duty.

“I said ‘no, you’re not putting me into the middle of the road.’ But a crossing guard didn’t show up. And here I am 37 years later,” Paciorek continued.

Since that first shift, Paciorek has watched local children grow a little older from 8 to 9 a.m. every school day. That’s the best part of the job.

And she’s taken the more uncomfortable experiences in stride — “when the snow was so high it was like tunnels coming through here. Below zero, 10 below zero and a wind chill. Rain, sleet, and I hate boots,” Paciorek said.

There have also been a few difficult instances. Once, a young child was nearly hurt by a car in the village center. “I pushed her out of the way. That was one of the scary moments,” Paciorek added. Another time an angry driver disembarked from his truck and aggressively walked toward her after she’d told him to stop.

Despite the challenges, it’s worthwhile. Paciorek finds fulfillment in her work.

“The memorable thing is when the kids grow up and they stop to see you,” she said. Other things have also changed. More often these days both parents work. Because of that mothers or fathers drop their children off at the crosswalk to avoid congestion at the elementary school.

And the town itself has evolved in that time, too.

“I see people who I don’t know, believe it or not,” said Paciorek, gesturing to North Main Street, busy this Thursday with farm trucks from Galenski Farms — respectful and safe, Paciorek was quick to point out — and commuters. “It’s a cut through,” she noted.

Being visible in the community helps in Paciorek’s other roles as the town’s constable and president of South County TRIAD, meeting the needs of local seniors. She’s also able to help children in other ways. A few times, Paciorek remembered bringing food for students who didn’t get enough at home.

“I’ve bought baseball bats; I’ve bought shoes,” Paciorek said.

Her efforts are appreciated. There’s a cork board in Paciorek’s Sugarloaf Street home covered in ‘thank you’ notes penned by appreciative children.

“They’ll pick flowers along the way. It’s been a great journey out here. I don’t know how much longer. When I think it’s time, I get attached again,” Paciorek said.

“What a comfort to the children of Deerfield to see a familiar face every day and what a comfort to the families of Deerfield to know that this experienced and caring adult is protecting the safety of their children,” said Union 38 School Superintendent Lynn Carey. “Thank you, Sharyn, on behalf of the entire Deerfield School District.”