March 6, 2005 – Every weekday, Janice Martinez wakes up and leaves her home early so she can say good morning to some of the 455 youngsters she calls her "children." Martinez holds the smiling face that welcomes students, teachers and parents at the entrance to Evelyn Williams School in Estate Paradise every morning.
"I love my job," Martinez says, "I really enjoy it."
Martinez is a school monitor, whose duties include supervising the front gate, making sure the students cross the street safely and keeping parents informed about school activities.
No matter what the weather, Martinez is always on the job.
"I protect the kids from the traffic," Martinez says. "When it's raining I am here standing in the mud just like the children, we walk through the mud together."
You can tell the children look forward to seeing Martinez every morning by the smiles on their faces as they greet her. To them Martinez represents safety and security. Sometimes the smaller children hesitate at the gate, unwilling to leave the safety of their parents and venture onto the school grounds. Martinez is always there to help.
"Sometimes kids stand outside the gate and don't want to go inside, Martinez said on a recent morning. "I have to console them and encourage them to go into the school."
As she stops to take the hand of one kindergartener to help her across the street, Martinez bends down to kid level and says, "Good morning mama; how are you today?" She is rewarded by a sweet smile. "That is my gift every day, these smiles," Martinez said.
Busy parents depend on Martinez, too. She reminds them of special activities going on at school — even the start of mid term and final exams.
"I remind parents of activities, like if we are having a half day of school. Sometimes the notices go out early and when the day comes, the parents forget. When exams come around I remind the parents and tell them to make sure the child gets a good breakfast."
Martinez says, "The children come and show me their report cards."
When Martinez is asked how many years she has been at the school, she shakes her head and says, "Oh my God! More than twenty! I should have retired long ago." Martinez said she tried to retire a few years ago but was told she was too young to retire. "But look, I have gray hair!" Martinez exclaims, pointing to her neatly braided hair. Martinez has actually been with the government for 26 years. "I've always been at this school," she says proudly.
Martinez says the children have changed in the 20 years she has been working with them. She worries about the values they are being taught and the examples that are set by their parents.
"The manners of the students have gotten worse over the years" Martinez says. "They don't know the difference between a child's behavior and an adult's; the bold ones curse out loud and the shy ones curse under their breath."
Martinez believes that values taught at home are a big part of a child's upbringing. Martinez thinks this is what many children are lacking. Values and respect are not being taught at home and parents disregard the fact that children learn from what they observe their parents doing.
"Some parents set a bad example," Martinez observed. "But in the little time I have with them I try to show them simple values."
The mother of four grown children, Martinez's other duties include securing the school, helping inside the classrooms and monitoring the children during lunch and recess. But it is her smiling face, helpful attitude and obvious love for children that makes her a favorite among the children and parents of the Evelyn Williams School.
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