Photos: Sally Clemmer
ICR: What surprised you about driving school buses?
BST: It was really shocking, because we have to take care of everything. I thought we just had to drive. No, that’s not it at all. You have to check the antifreeze and the oil. You keep a roster on all the students. You really take care of the kids. You become the grandmother, the mother, the doctor, the therapist. I’ve driven all kinds of kids: the regular routes, the special-ed routes, the truancy routes. You watch them change and grow up. And after you’ve been driving for 10 to 15 years, you get a new set.
ICR: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned?
BST: I believe in the village concept: It takes a village to raise these children. And it’s not just me; it’s the principal, the nurses, the parents. We’re all integral parts of the system. We make sure [the kids] get their breakfast, have the right clothes—the whole nine yards.
ICR: Having driven so many kids over the years, what do you remember best about them?
BST: I can see their faces. Each year is different, but I think of the special programs, like having the fourth- and fifth-graders read to the first-through-third-graders. I can hear the older students helping the younger ones pronounce the words. Then there are the kids you look at and think, “My God, they’re not going to make it.” But then you see the outstanding citizens they become. Some students I drove are even driving buses themselves!
ICR:What keeps you at the wheel?
BST: It’s the love for the kids. You were a child once, and you know that every child is good. Some act badly, but the badness is their want for attention. At Columbus City Schools there’s also a huge emphasis on safety. The technology is great on the buses; we have cameras, and panic buttons we can push if anything gets out of hand. If there were ever a situation, we would protect the children, protect our babies. And that’s what they are until we get them back to their parents: our babies. Bus driving isn’t for everyone. You really have to love the kids.