Lori Anderson knows she has big shoes to fill.
But she's ready for the challenge as the new coordinator of Safe-T-City, the Toledo police department's summer safety program for children entering kindergarten.
“I'm really looking forward to it. It'll be my first full-time job in the summer. I think it will be fun,” said the 30-year-old South Toledoan.
If she has any questions or concerns about leading the program, she doesn't have to look far for advice.
Dottie Zimmerman, who retired last year after 28 years as coordinator, left a manual on the job's duties and is only a phone call away.
“I have no doubt that things are going to progress and maybe even get better [under Ms. Anderson],” Mrs. Zimmerman said.
Police recently selected Ms. Anderson to coordinate the program, in which she has been a substitute teacher for two years.
Several full-time Safe-T-City teachers turned down the position because they didn't want to leave teaching or they didn't have enough time to devote to the program before it started and after it was over, said retired Lt. Wayne Markland.
During the program, children learn pedestrian skills and life safety lessons. A similar course is offered for special-needs children in kindergarten through third grade, and for mentally retarded adults. Sessions last 20 hours over eight days.
In small classes led by a police officer, students learn to navigate a "miniature city" with streets, traffic lights, signs, sidewalks, and buildings scaled down to kid-size. The simulation helps them understand such lessons as how to use the traffic light as a helper when crossing the street.
Several Toledo Public School teachers follow up the hands-on learning with classroom teaching. In addition, the children learn from firefighters, nurses, and other guest speakers and participate in such activities as art projects and sing-alongs.
Ms. Anderson was recommended to coordinate the program by several teachers, including veteran Safe-T-City teacher Pat Mouch.
“Lori is probably one of the most organized teachers I know. Based on how she keeps her classroom and her whole personality, I thought she would be great,” said Ms. Mouch, who works with Ms. Anderson at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. “She's substituted. She knows the routine. She knows the protocol for the program. I thought she would be a natural at it.”
Ms. Anderson has taught second grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help for seven years.
Part of the reason she wants to be coordinator is to help fulfill a personal goal - pursuing a master's degree in education administration so she can become a principal. She took a few classes at Bowling Green State University last summer. She graduated in 1992 from Indiana University with a bachelor's degree in education.
Ms. Anderson said she doesn't have any major changes for the Safe-T-City program, just minor ones, such as updating some videos the children are shown.
She plans to continue programs designed for disabled children and mentally retarded adults. She also is encouraging older students to help with the pre-kindergarten program, which starts June 13 and is expected to educate nearly 1,000 children.
“These boys and girls might end up being teachers some day. It's good experience for them,” Ms. Anderson said.
As a substitute at Safe-T-City, Ms. Anderson said she worked at least once a week to teach or organize a program.
“She works well with the staff, and that's a good quality, especially since she has worked for only such a short timeframe,” police Officer Earl Barry said.