Thomas Built Buses announced that Dawn LeMaster of Lake Orion Community Schools in Michigan is the 2012 "Children's Choice School Bus Driver of the Year," as nominated by a fourth grade student she transports each day.
LeMaster, no relation to 2010 driver of the year Lester LeMasters of Monongalia County Schools in West Virginia, was chosen as this year's winner based on an essay by 10-year-old Charlotte, a student at Carpenter Elementary. Charlotte wrote that LeMasters is "the most fun, loval, loving, caring and awesome bus driver I've ever had." LeMasters also makes riding the bus fun and educational by playing an on-going, on-bus trivia game with the students, promoting a safety program and keeping a portable library on the bus for kids to read books during the commute, Charlotte wrote.
"Dawn and I have had considerable interest from other operations regarding the games she put together that are educational that she uses on the bus," said Dale Goby, director of transportation for Lake Orion Community Schools. "So, we are putting together a brief on those games so others can also benefit from it."
Editor's note —Contest judges included Ryan Gray, editor in chief of School Transportation News; Thomas McMahon, executive editor of School Bus Fleet, Alexandra Robinson, NAPT president and executive director of transportation for the New York City Department of Education; Tim Flood, president-elect of NSTA and Trans Group executive vice president; and Max Christensen, NASDPTS president and a student transportation consultant with the Iowa Department of Education.
Students from across the nation submitted approximately 90-word essays and photos to Thomas over the past year that told stories of why their respective bus drivers are the best. As the 2012 grand-prize winner, LeMasters will receive a $1,000 gift card, and Charlotte wins a $1,000 educational savings bond and a laptop computer. Both LeMasters and Charlotte also won Thomas Built Buses jackets and lunch boxes.
One driver runner-up was James Crockett of Fairfax (Va.) County Public Schools, who was nominated by sixth grader Rahul of Floris Elementary. The other was Gregg Cunningham of West Noble School Corporation in Ligonier, Ind. He was nominated by sixth grader Kendra of West Noble Middle School.
"We are commited to building safe, dependable buses, and we recognize, too, the important role of drivers in transporting children safely to and from school," said Kelley Platt, president and CEO of Thomas. "This contest lets us say thank you to the school bus drivers who take such good care of their cherished cargo, and to recognize their significant role in students' lives."
This year marks the seventh annual Children's Choice School Bus Driver of the Year Award, which Thomas started to commemorate the company's 90th anniversary celebration in 2005. Thomas said more than 750 students from 28 states entered this year's contest.