School bus driver: a special kind of person

Published: November 10, 2005 | 2664th good news item since 2003

“As the link between home and school, bus drivers are the first school employees to greet children in the morning and the last to wish kids a good day. These unsung heroes start their work before sunrise to ensure students get to school on time and safely,” – Focus Magazine.

National School Bus Safety week observances took place in October, so I contacted Reta Jones, the transportation manager for the Solano County Office of Education. She was once a school bus driver herself and doesn’t mind helping out when needed.

Though I haven’t ridden with any of the drivers on one of their routes in quite some time, I know how hard these women and men work every day as they transport special needs students throughout Solano County.

When asked why they chose to become school bus drivers, all attested to their love of children and especially working with special needs children.

“I always knew that I wanted to work with people that needed extra help and after trying a few other careers, I was approached and asked what about a school bus driver? I gave it a shot and fell in love. The bonus is that I work with children with special needs,” said driver Kerri Gardner.

Veronica Lewis said she loves children and wanted to do something where she would always be around them, spending time with them, talking to them and teaching them.

It takes a special person to appreciate that line of work, Gardner said.

“You have to enjoy kids and our main job is to safely get our kids to and from school. I would also say that there is not a better feeling in knowing you are a part of a child’s learning,” she said.

One driver has watched some of the students grow from babies to adulthood.

“Watching our kids grow and learn is very exciting,” the driver said. “I’ve been here long enough to watch a very little one (age 2) start school and finish at age 22.”

For millions of students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus.

Unfortunately, each year many children receive injuries and several are killed in school bus accidents. That’s why our Solano County school bus drivers emphasize to drivers and pedestrians how important it is to always observe school bus safety laws and rules.

One driver said the most difficult part of the job is that drivers and pedestrians don’t realize that buses can’t stop on a dime or they feel that buses are in their way. Another difficulty involves parents at school sites who drop their kids off in the road or park in spaces reserved for school bus parking.

Midge Simpson advises all of us to be courteous drivers, defensive drivers and to obey the laws at the crosswalks and right of way.

Many of us – we know who we are – with Type A and multi-tasking personalities tend to become impatient when we see a school bus stopped ahead of us.

But school bus drivers plead with us to respect school bus laws, to observe the flashing red lights and to always stop and wait. They also admonish pedestrians to observe and obey traffic and school bus laws because buses cannot stop as fast as some people think.

“And please remember,” another said, “that before you cut the bus off or run that red light, we have the most precious cargo on board and they are not replaceable.”

Lewis believes it takes a special kind of person to do a special kind of job like being a school bus driver. After working with school bus drivers for many years as a teacher, principal, and school board trustee, I couldn’t agree more.

“You get a lot out of being a school bus driver, except money,” one driver said.

It’s not fair that many times those who perform the most important jobs receive the lowest pay.

“Who shouldn’t become a bus driver?” asked one driver. “A person who doesn’t like working with the public, not very patient with children, prejudiced of color, size or origins, without compassion, without heart, and not safety conscious.”

Published in Heroes
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