Posted: Monday, November 14, 2016

Building Relationships

James ZimmermanJames Zimmerman, School Bus Driver - Donaldson Bus Center

“When I was little, I always wanted to be a bus driver. After graduating from high school, I started driving a bus so I could take some advanced courses during the day,” said James Zimmerman, a driver at Donaldson Bus Center.

Zimmerman drives elementary and middle school routes. He also takes on extra duties, such as assisting with buses that are broken down, in between his routes. This year, Zimmerman added the responsibilities of morning dispatch.  

One of the most enjoyable parts of his job is getting to know the students. "I want to be firm and let students know why they need to obey the rules and follow the directions of the driver. I try to build relationships with them, so they see that I respect them and they respect me, too."

After 11 years as a bus driver, Zimmerman has seen students he drove in elementary school go on to graduate. “I'll see them out and they still call me Mr. James. It's a good thing to know that they remember me and have a positive feeling about me."

Preparing New Drivers

Sharon FlemingSharon Fleming, Bus Driver Trainer - Donaldson Bus Center

School bus safety officer Sharon Fleming is responsible for training new drivers on basic driving skills and preparing them for the road test. “I train them on State procedures as required by the State Department of Transportation. I teach them to load and unload students - which is the most critical time a child is on the school bus - as well as railroad crossing procedures, proper turnabouts, and procedures if roadside parking is necessary due to a problem on or with the bus,” she explained.

"When people see a school bus, they always want to go around it or try to ‘beat the bus,’” said Fleming. “I train my drivers to expect them not to stop. They always have to check what's in front, around, and behind them so they know what's going on. My experience as a driver helps me prepare new drivers.​"

Fleming has worked for the Transportation Department for 29 years and really enjoys meeting people. ”It makes me feel good when my students succeed. I get excited for them just like a classroom teacher gets excited when a child succeeds!"

Dedicated and Patient

Gail HowardGail Howard, Special Needs Bus Aide - Taylors Bus Center

After more than 27 years in the corporate world, Gail Howard decided to put her people skills to good use as a school bus aide.

“My job consists of being dedicated and patient. The children are like flowers. Each one is different so you must treat them differently,” she said. “If I see that they might be having an off day, I try to make them smile. It’s not just a job, it’s a calling."

Howard describes an autistic child who didn’t talk a lot. “The family went on vacation and the whole time he was gone, he talked about Ms. Gail. When they got back his mom told me, 'I've got to meet Ms. Gail!'"

Seeing children every day is the best part of the job, Howard said. "Children can feel your heart. They can tell if you really like them or not. You have to be loving, but firm.” She added that the job requires someone who knows they want to help others. “It lights me up every morning!" she added with a smile.

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