For over 33 years, Teresa Sapp has been driving a school bus for Hillsborough County Public Schools. Although she says that traffic and the unsafe habits of drivers on the roads are a constant challenge, it’s the kids who make it all worthwhile. With a sweet smile on her face, Teresa says, “When the kids come up to me and hug me or give me little notes, it tugs at the heartstrings.” She is very adamant that a good driver “has to develop a rapport with his/her riders. You can’t always depend on the consistency of support from outside factors, so you have to have a definite process for discipline and behavior in place.” She incorporates the CHAMPS method just like the schools she drives for do – and the children respond well. It’s a simple process and for her, it works!
This year, Teresa feels she has a great group of students on her bus. The buses are filled up to the maximum number that they can hold safely (40 on her elementary run, and 63 on her high school run), which is why the District is intently focused on hiring 200 more drivers, so that there are enough drivers for the buses, and so that buses do not have to be as crowded.
Teresa is honest about the pros and cons of driving a bus. The days can be long – her first student hops on the bus at 6:00 a.m., and the last rider gets dropped off around 4:40 p.m. “But”, she says, “those few hours of ‘down-time’ in the middle of the day between my three morning and three afternoon runs give me time to get housework done, shop for groceries, prepare a meal ahead of time, etc.” In addition, she has the very same holiday schedule as her own children and grandchildren, which has been a nice perk for all these years.
Ask Latesa Cohen about being a bus driver, and you will get a slightly different viewpoint. She has been driving for seven years, and during that time, she has been a magnet driver, a traditional driver, and an ESE (Exceptional Student Education) driver, and she feels that, “We [bus drivers] wear many hats but are not valued as much as we should be for all we do every day. We are mothers, fathers, principals, doctors, nurses, lawyers and policemen while we are on the bus with students.” She loves the aspect of being a confidant and mentor for the students on her bus, and she tries to be an advocate for them. She doesn’t have much trouble with discipline, because she too has a consistent and firm behavior plan. Latesa cautions new drivers with these words of advice. “You are a billboard for the District in your uniform shirt, so you have to have a heart for this job.”
Both Latesa and Teresa emphasize that someone who may be considering becoming a driver should have, at the very least, these three positive traits – patience, consistent expectations, and a love of children. Teresa puts it simply, “If you love kids and are looking for a rewarding and amazing opportunity, try it. Give it longer than just one day before you make up your mind, but at least try it!”
In order to begin filling driver positions, Transportation Services is rolling out with an aggressive Summer Recruitment Campaign. A number of Information Sessions and Hiring events are being offered throughout the summer to help guide applicants through the application process and into one of the paid CDL training classes. An HCPS Transportation official urged, “If individuals have the drive, desire, and devotion to help students get back and forth to school, we encourage them to register for any one of our information sessions or hiring events.” To find out how to register, or for more information about these sessions and events, visit http://bit.ly/HCPSTransportation.View Full Album