The car pulls up and parks on the small strip of asphalt next to the original wing of St. Davids Elementary School around 8:30 a.m. Seventy-three-year-old Vic Tee gets out and puts on his cap, with the words “I’m Nice” printed on the front.
Next, he dons his bright orange and yellow safety vest, and grabs his hand-held stop sign. He heads to the sidewalk in front of the crosswalk for his first of three shifts ensuring his young charges make it across the road safely.
As children approach the crosswalk, he greets all of them with a friendly smile that, though covered by a mask these days, is evident in his eyes. He greets most of the youngsters by name. They wait for his instruction, and for him to take his place in front of the idling cars, before they eagerly shuffle across the street.
For the past eight years, the retired truck driver has been part of the fabric of life at the small community school. “I do it because I enjoy it,” he says. “It gives me something to do, gets me out of the house.”
And he loves working with the students. “I’ve seen them grow up. They’re great kids. They watch out for everything, you know. They have always been a great bunch. I’ve lived in St. Davids for over 40 years, and I know their parents, and their grandparents.”
Wednesday, March 24 is School Crossing Guard Appreciation Day in Ontario, a chance to recognize unsung heroes such as Tee, who assist young residents with their active and safe travel to and from school.
To recognize Vic, a number of students who cross with him worked on thank you cards in class to present to him on his special day. They also presented him with some special treats from Tim Hortons.
Principal Tracy Leemet says Tee “is warm and caring to the students he crosses. He never misses a day, and is out there through all kinds of weather. We are so very fortunate to have such a dedicated crossing guard. He’s one of the best!”
Tee seems almost embarrassed that there is a day dedicated to crossing guards.
“I guess it should be appreciated,” he finally agrees. “Being here three times a day, it kind of ties you down a bit, but I appreciate just being able to be out here in the fresh air, playing around with the kids, getting to talk to their mothers and fathers as they are bringing them in. It’s fun.”
Tee notices one girl approaching his post. He calls her Gigi, and glances at his Apple watch. “She’s a little earlier than usual,” he tells The Local. It comes with the job, knowing when certain students are likely to arrive, and feeling his radar go off when a routine is broken.
On an average day, especially when the weather is as nice as it is today, Tee’s Apple watch clocks around 10,000 steps. “I do a lot of walking. At lunch time I’m not very busy, so I walk from here down towards the other end of the school and come back. Once the kids have crossed, there’s not a lot for me to do, so I walk almost 40 minutes.”
Working the crosswalk is just one way Tee gives back to his community. He has been a member of the St. Davids Lions Club and speaks highly of the programs they support with their fundraising efforts, many of which benefit the kids who visit his crosswalk daily. He would have also become a volunteer firefighter, but he says he prefers to wear his hair longer and often grows a beard.
Tee grew up in the Old Town of NOTL, where he kept active in his younger days playing tennis, soccer, softball and then slo-pitch. He attended Parliament Oak and Niagara District Secondary School back then, but his wife Sandy attended St. Davids. He’s pretty sure her father did as well.
Vic and Sandy’s two boys, now in their 40s, were also Dragons. The Tees now have six grandchildren, and last September, they became great-grandparents, when twins were born to their eldest granddaughter.
Providing support to students arriving at school is a bit of a family business. Sandy drives a school bus, leaving just a little earlier than Vic every day to start her regular route.
Obviously, contributing to the community and helping out kids is important to both Vic and Sandy, but he’s not sure how much longer they will continue in their support roles. They own a trailer they keep in the Parry Sound area, where they spend much of their summer weeks. During colder days, when instead of getting all those steps in he whiles away time in his car, he admits it’s not as much fun as it is in the spring. And they want to spend more time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, too.
But for now, he’s out there five days a week, three times a day, stopping cars and waving back at about every third driver who smiles and waves back, showing their appreciation for what he does each and every day.