As students readied their backpacks and supplies, Kathleen Byres was clearing her iPod and creating her playlist for back to school.
Byres is known in the west end of downtown Toronto as the dancing crossing guard. Tuesday morning, Sept. 4, marked Byres’s ninth school year as a crossing guard on Dufferin Street, south of Dundas Street West.
With a lightweight portable iPod docking station slung across her shoulder, Byres shimmies and shuffles to the centre of the crosswalk, raises a stop sign in one hand and makes a peace sign with the other.
“I live dancing and you need to stay active,” Byres said with a laugh. “And I just love music.”
Her play lists vary from pop, rap, rhythm and blues and folk music. It often depends on her mood. On rainy mornings she might tone it down a bit. She also creates play lists for special occasions including Halloween and Christmas.
“I get recommendations and requests from the parents and the kids,” Byres said. “I like to play songs they like as well as what I like.”
It’s clear her moves brighten up many people’s days as Bryes and her dancing were met with plenty of smiles and waves and the occasional honk from a car horn on the first day of school.
Byres was a certified fitness instructor and said when she took up her post as a crossing guard, the dancing just came naturally and beat standing.
Byres lives in the Brockton neighbourhood, just minutes from her crosswalk. She was also raised in this area of the city and attended the nearby Alexander Muir Gladstone Public School, the school she now ushers many kids to each morning.
Bryes brings her dance moves to Dufferin three times daily – from 8 a.m. to 9:10 a.m., from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3:15 to 4:10 p.m.