Steering students toward success
Hoover school bus drivers serve as positive role models for kids
By Heather Jones Skaggs
Photographs by Dawn Harrison
Before the school bell rings and books or tablets are opened for class, many students who ride the bus to school are greeted with a friendly smile from their bus driver to get their day started right.
“For students who ride the bus to and from school, their drivers are the first people they encounter in the morning and the last they see in the afternoon as they go home. A smile, a hello and a good morning can make a difference in the student’s day,” says Jeremy Bradford, Coordinator of Transportation for Hoover City Schools. “Our Hoover City Schools bus drivers take the opportunity to listen, encourage and motivate each student on their bus before they even step into a classroom.”
Sometimes overlooked as part of the educational system, bus drivers come from all walks of life and have much to offer in the learning process. They are successful and accomplished individuals with experience and knowledge and vary from retirees to stay-at-home parents. Some, like Britt Patterson, are even former students from the Hoover School System.
Patterson, who was a cheerleader, Hoover Belle and a Junior Olympic diver during her high school years at Berry/Hoover High School, went on to the University of Alabama, where she also cheered and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and a minor in public relations. After college Britt went on to work in the healthcare consulting business and started a family.
“I wanted to ease my way back into work after staying home for eight years to raise my children,” Britt says. “I have a few friends that drive buses and love it, so I decided to talk to them about their experience.”
Patterson found that it was a good opportunity, went through training and started driving for Hoover in fall 2015.
On the one hour to an hour and 15 minutes route she drives every day, Patterson talks to her students and asks them about their day all while safely transporting the kids home.
“We have a ‘Challenge of the Day’ each day,” Britt explains. “I wanted to steer them towards positive thinking and conversations, and I think that helps with that. We have ‘Make a friend Monday,’ ‘Talk to someone Tuesday,’ ‘Thank somebody Thursday’ and ‘Fist pump Friday.’”
The Challenge of the Day has turned into something the students look forward to participating in, and they even remind Patterson and ask for the challenge.
“The challenges vary day to day, but they all focus on helping someone else or becoming part of the good in their school, family and community,” Britt says. “My hope is to encourage them to be good role models for their peers, their friends and their families.”
“I love to see my students grow and mature. It is fun to hear their stories of how they have accomplished the ‘Challenge of the Day’. It is amazing to see their excitement when they accomplish a goal, have a good day or help someone in need,” Britt says.
Having her own children in Hoover schools, Britt says she loves the opportunity to be involved with the school system this way.
“At times, I have the opportunity to drive one of my own children on a field trip,” she says. “Their excitement and my ability to spend time with them is irreplaceable.”
Being that smiling face that greets them in the morning is just part of Britt’s routine matched with several important responsibilities that all drivers devote attention to when driving. “Our number one responsibility is to transport our students safely,” Britt explains. Drivers focus not only inside the bus, ensuring students are behaving, but they are constantly applying defensive driving skills and following all state and local driving laws.
“We are great multi-taskers,” Britt adds.
Over her time driving for Hoover, Britt recounts a few funny and heartwarming moments. “My elementary students have written me letters that just melted my heart,” she shares. “One of the funniest things is that I have picked up a few dance moves from my students this year! I had a student that would do a neck rotation/neck dance kind of move and look at me from the side of the seat (he was too short to see over the seat) when I would call his name.
“I have learned a ton of new dance moves from my students loading and unloading the bus. They seem to enjoy dancing onto the bus,” she added, laughing.
Britt says she works with not only great students but other outstanding drivers and Jeremy Bradford agrees.
“In my opinion, we have the best bus drivers in the state,” he says, “But we are always looking for new full-time and substitute bus drivers to keep up with our ever growing system.”
Bradford says he would like to see more Hoover parents, like Britt Patterson, apply for bus driver positions.
“Bus driving is a great way for our parents to be actively involved in the overall success of our great school system,” he says. “We have three in-house state certified trainers ready to assist applicants regardless of his or her experience level.”
Drivers for Hoover City Schools go through state training, local training and are then tested before they can transport students. Initial training and testing is roughly a month-long process and each year drivers who are hired attend training and are retested. Many drivers are also CPR certified.
“I work with amazing people and extremely knowledgeable mechanics that I know will help me keep my bus in perfect operational shape,” Britt says. “There are opportunities available to join our team and substitute drivers are always needed!”
In general, Bradford says they are looking for someone who loves children and wants to be a positive role model in students’ lives, and at the same time, dedicated to the safety and success of the students and the school system.
For more information on driving for Hoover City Schools, contact Jeremy Bradford, firstname.lastname@example.org or (205) 492-5073.