Standing before 200 school crossing guards gathered at the Mesa Convention Center on Thursday morning, the transportation official held up a plastic bag containing the tools of their trade.
A booklet on the policies and procedures they must follow to protect children. A fluorescent yellow vest to make them more visible to drivers. And the stop-sign-on-a-stick, officially called a paddle but nicknamed "the lollipop."
The guards first began to excitedly chatter with each other. Then, applause erupted.
"Hopefully, you'll use these with pride," said Eric Anderson, transportation director for the Maricopa Association of Governments.
Children and parents across the East Valley are preparing for school, which begins for most districts next week. And that means crossing guards are readying themselves for their duties as, like a video presentation told them, "guardians of the future."
During the three-hour workshop, presented by MAG, the guards learned what they can and cannot do, plus how they should do it. Directing traffic is a no-no, but those experienced in the crosswalk said making eye contact with drivers is a must.
In Arizona, vehicles in school zones must slow to 15 mph or less and come to a complete stop when there is a person in the crosswalk. Penalties range from $125 to $500, depending on the jurisdiction, plus points on the driver's license.
"A person" includes the guards, they were told by Mesa police Detective Charles Pesterfield, part of the force's traffic unit. But too often, drivers will wait for the children to clear yet not have the patience for the crossing guard to reach the curb.
"You will have idiots coming through your intersection - trust me," Pesterfield said.
The detective didn't need to convince Duane Schneider, who works outside Las Sendas Elementary School in Mesa.
"I've nearly ended up as a hood ornament," Schneider said.
One of the highlights during the workshop was AAA Arizona honoring the East Valley's crossing guard of the year for 2008-09. That award went to Betty Garcia, a nine-year veteran at Augusta Ranch Elementary in Gilbert.
Garcia got started as a guard when her son was attending the school. "But that's how I treat all my kids - like they're my own," she added.