When the mother of a school student that had some challenges, especially when it came to strangers, noticed who was driving the bus going past their home, everything changed.
That mom had been transporting her daughter to and from school. Her daughter liked people, but not strange people, making it a little technical to ride a school bus. But now, the mother felt there wouldn’t be any problem.
CTC driver Suzanne Bolin had been that girl’s preschool teacher.
“It was the first time that mom even considered putting her child on the bus,” Suzanne says, “When her mom realized I would be the driver, she knew she could trust me. Her daughter is happy as a lark on my bus.”
In 2000, when expecting her youngest child, Suzanne got her CDL and drove during the pregnancy. She later went on to teach preschool full-time for fifteen years, then began driving the bus again to pick up a little extra income.
“I was able to work before and after my preschool day as a driver, and do both jobs,” she says.
The schedule was a good fit for someone wanting to work in the middle of the day.
During the 2012-2013 school year, the Mountain Home transportation contract was awarded to Caldwell Transportation, and Suzanne began driving for them.
She says, “CTC acts like they care about us and our well-being. We’re not just a number. They just do little things to keep us happy that show they’re paying attention to what you do, and give little rewards. Tomorrow the management will visit, to treat us to hot dogs. Those things make us feel appreciated.”
A former preschool teacher like Suzanne has plenty of child psychology tips when it comes to dealing with children:
“Pick your battles,” she advises, “that’s the biggest thing. Some will tell kids, ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ Instead, tell them what they can do. They respond to that a lot better.”
If multiple rules must be administered, Suzanne says to make sure to explain why, with a sprinkling of humor, if possible.
“I’m not saying ‘no food on the bus’ to be a jerk. I’m saying it because I can’t give you the Heimlich maneuver if I’m up here driving, and you’re back there choking.”
If you make it funny, Suzanne shares, the kids will remember it.
She also employs mirth when trying to make another point:
“HEY, GUYS, CAN YOU HEAR WHAT I’M DOING? CAN YOU HEAR THE…” She’ll say over a bus loudspeaker.
“Is she crazy?” the kids might think.
“Okay, guys,” she tells her riders, “Could you hear what was going on with everyone talking that loudly? Could you hear what was going on when I was talking that loudly?”
“Make it kind of funny, and they usually quiet down,” Suzanne explains, “You don’t want to be a downer all the time. If you’re constantly saying ‘no,' it falls on deaf ears. There are rules at school; the kids have been cooped up all day. Like the rest of us, they just want to get home.”
Suzanne has learned plenty of life lessons as a Caldwell Transportation driver, dispatcher, and now trainer:
“Don’t always judge a book by its cover, that’s for darn sure,” she laughs, “There might be kids that come off as kind of shabby-looking, but those are usually some of the smartest kids on the bus. Sometimes the kids have had to learn to fend for themselves.”
She shares that those kids that seem to have everything may not have the adult in their life’s time, which is what they’d like the most.
“All they want,” Suzanne relates, “is somebody to listen. I just try to pay attention.”
Suzanne also watches for warning signs that something’s not right. Her riders are normally happy and smiling. If they board the bus with a different demeanor, Suzanne tries to find out why.
“They might be having problems in their home life,” she says, “and if so, I’ll try to crack a joke or pick on them a little bit. Say, ‘someone’s going to step on your lip if you don’t smile.’ They need someone to give them a reason to smile, and to smile with them. They need someone to help them stop thinking about whatever it is that’s making them feel so sad.”
There are rewards. Several of the kids present pictures they’ve drawn to Suzanne, who promptly hangs them on the ceiling of her bus. The kids love seeing their artwork on display.
One child, surprised to see their gift on the ceiling, said, “You hung it up?”
“Yes,” Suzanne replied, “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Nobody ever did that before,” she was told.
Having seen her preschoolers through junior high and high school, Suzanne feels like she matters, and that’s how she makes her riders feel.
Caldwell Transportation is happy to have Suzanne Bolin as the Driver of the Week.
Caldwell Transportation Company-NOW HIRING DRIVERS