American Education Week is a nationwide event that is celebrated during the third full week of November every year. In 2023, it will take place from November 13th to November 17th, providing a dedicated time not only to schools but also to families and communities to support and work together towards better education for the students.
So, what does this event mean for school bus drivers?
Transportation is an essential part of education, and school bus drivers, aides and contractors play a major role in it. Their main duty is to transport children to their schools safely and on time so that they will be able to receive formal education, which is a crucial path to shaping their future and the development of society as a whole. Lack of reliable transportation can cause students to be tardy or absent from school a lot of times, resulting in failing grades and, ultimately, expulsion from school.
And this is why American Education Week provides a perfect opportunity for the students and communities to salute and appreciate the school staff, including school bus drivers, aides, mechanics, support staff and all involved in safely transporting students.
American Education Week: A Nurturing Tradition
American Education Week celebrates the importance of education in our society and the entire nation. It also recognizes the contribution and dedication of educators, school staff, and the entire education community.
This week-long event serves as an ideal opportunity to highlight education’s vital role in shaping the future and creating opportunities for students of all ages.
The National Education Association (NEA) has a significant role in creating this observance. Concerned that 25% of the country’s World War I draftees were illiterate, representatives from NEA and the American Legion convened to tackle the issue and seek ways to generate public support for education.
The conventions of the two organizations eventually adopted resolutions of support for a national effort to raise public awareness of the importance of education. So, in 1921, the NEA called for a designation of one full week every year to spotlight education’s importance, and American Education Week was established.
Recognizing and honoring the key figures – educators, substitute educators, mentors, school staff, as well as school transportation professionals – matters a lot to them. Their hard work, dedication, commitment, and their overall contributions to education shouldn’t go unnoticed. Their jobs are not easy, with the difficulties and stresses having grown over time. By honoring, appreciating, and supporting them, they will be more likely to feel satisfied and fulfilled in their duties. Moreover, appreciating these key figures can help create a positive learning environment for the students and make sure that our youth receive the education they need and deserve.
The Unsung Heroes: School Transportation Professionals
Although the role of school bus drivers and aides in education seems indirect, it is still crucial in shaping the lives and future of the students. The fundamental role of school transportation professionals is to transport students to school and other sites within the designated route(s) and ensure their safety while they’re on the bus.
But these professionals handle a lot more responsibilities than just getting behind the wheel. They maintain the order of their young passengers while they’re onboard, do pre-driving inspections of their vehicles, maintain the cleanliness of their vehicles to ensure safe operating conditions, create a welcoming safe space for students and so much more.
School bus drivers interact with students on a daily basis. Over time, they act as “second parents,” guardians, referees, and friends to the hundreds and thousands of students they transport each day. School bus drivers are truly the unsung heroes of our day.
The human connection: impactful stories of school bus drivers
The impact of school bus drivers on students cannot be denied or underestimated. Although mainstream media covers a lot of “bus drivers behaving badly,” there are still many school bus drivers who are professional in their jobs. Some drivers even go above and beyond the call of duty whenever needed, whether on or off their routes.
Read some of the remarkable school bus driver stories below:
- In 1941, Robert Diedrich was driving nine schoolchildren in Oxnard, California, when a terrible windstorm felled power lines that confined the bus he was driving. After calming the children, Diedrich ignored his own safety to disembark the bus to lift the power lines from the ground. For his act of heroism, Diedrich was awarded a “handsome medal.”
- In 1986, Vanessa Eaton, a school bus driver in Owosso, Michigan, rescued 47 children from the downtown railroad tracks only seconds before a freight train plowed into their stalled school bus.
- In 2000, school bus driver George Schierer rescued five students with disabilities after smoke started billowing from the vehicle’s dashboard. He ordered the three ambulatory passengers off and extracted the other two in their wheelchairs just before an electrical fire broke out. Fortunately, everyone escaped unharmed.
- In 2015, 230 students, staff, and chaperones of Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) were stranded by severe icy conditions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where they had been participating in an academic competition. RRISD’s transportation director, Fritz Klabunde, stepped up by driving a district vehicle, which led to a caravan of seven school buses along ice-and-snow-covered highways to pick up the stranded students and school staff.
- In 2023, an unnamed female school bus driver in New Carlisle, Ohio, saved a student from being hit by a speeding car as he got off the bus.
These stories exemplify the importance of these professionals to our children’s education. Not only do they transport students to and from school safely, but they also go beyond the extra mile in their duties and do what they feel is right. They serve as role models who do more than set a good example for these students. These acts of heroism have truly etched in the minds of the people, especially of those whose lives were saved by their school bus drivers.
Challenges and appreciation
Everyone who has driven a school bus knows that the job isn’t as easy as it seems. Some of the challenges and difficulties school bus drivers face every day include:
- Keeping an eye on the road
- Keeping the students in line
- Enforcing on-the-bus rules
- Remaining vigilant during heavy traffic
- Dealing with inclement weather
- Being aware of technical or mechanical issues with the bus
- Handling stress, etc.
Despite the enormous responsibilities and the challenges they deal with every day, school bus drivers often find themselves overlooked and underappreciated.
School district officials, parents, and members of their own communities should realize how challenging it is to keep an eye on the road and on the students, especially if they become rowdy. It is a task that often leaves many drivers overwhelmed, even with their years of experience. Other people should also keep in mind that drivers are responsible for the students’ lives on the bus and play a significant part in contributing to their education. Any distraction, even if it’s just a quick and brief one, can be a safety risk. These bus drivers also have their own families who are concerned for their safety.
With the long hours they put into work, the everyday challenges they face on the road and with the students on board, and their unwavering dedication to keeping everything safe in and out of the school bus, they deserve nothing less than proper recognition and appreciation.
Everyone loves to be recognized and appreciated for their hard work and dedication. Encourage your community to show appreciation and support for school transportation professionals by or contact the mayor’s office or City Hall to arrange an officially sponsored school bus safety or school bus driver recognition program. School transportation professionals should be included in various community-building activities that other district employees are involved in so that they will feel that they truly belong in their community.
American Education Week is a time for us to celebrate our public education system and the people who work hard to ensure a good future for our youth.
During American Education Week, we convey our deepest gratitude to the teachers, substitute teachers, educational assistants, special education teachers, administrators, school nurses, nutrition service workers, and, of course, our school bus drivers, aides and mechanics who keep thousands of schools across the US running every day.
School transportation professionals are crucial to shaping the future success of the students. They ensure that students arrive at the school on time to receive proper education. However, they are often overlooked and underappreciated, so communities are encouraged to give them the recognition they deserve through various activities and programs.
Please join us in celebrating and supporting the life-changing impact that everyone working in public schools – including school transportation professionals – has on the students, their families, and the entire community.