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School bus drivers influence youth

Many bus drivers may not realize just how influential they are with today’s youth.

Men and women of all ages and races load up early each morning – some before the sun comes up – and again in the afternoon to deliver precious cargo to and from schools throughout Butler County in all types of weather conditions. The way they treat these students and the things they say and do are not only direct reflections of them, but also set examples for the students perched in the dozens of seats inside the bright yellow automobile.

I in fact remember my first school bus driver and my last. Apparently they were influential to me because I even remember their names, which says a lot since I could look at my senior yearbook and without the names under the photos only identify half, and that’s a stretch.

Mr. Pinyan – I’m not sure I ever knew his first name – was my very first school bus driver. He drove me to Snow Rogers Elementary School, located just outside Birmingham, every morning and home every afternoon for seven years, kindergarten through sixth grade. He was a retiree that spent his free time driving buses for the Jefferson County School System. He was balding and wore trucker hats and was always entertaining.

Mr. Pinyan’s most memorable trait was his inability to pronounce the word “window” correctly. Every afternoon as his bus route neared its end, he would shout out across the bus in his Southern accent, “If you’re getting off at the next two or three stops, raise your winders.” Everyone always used to get a kick out of him saying “winders,” but never brought it to his attention. He was who he was and it suited him just fine.

Another vivid memory of Mr. Pinyan involved a snake that interrupted his bus route one hot, spring afternoon. A portion of the route took us through a heavily wooded area. The road looked as if they followed a snake when they designed it, with numerous curves that were dangerous to maneuver. As we were exiting this wooded area, Mr. Pinyan slammed on the air brakes, sending students face first into the seats in front of them. Once stopped, we learned that a very large, very long Boa Constrictor had slithered its way across the road and was nearly blocking the entire roadway with its body.

After what seemed to be an hour wait, the snake finally decided to complete its journey across the roadway and the route was completed. It was never figured out where the snake came from, but assumed that someone in the neighborhood owned it and it had escaped.

Mr. Pinyan continued to be my school bus driver my seventh- and eighth-grade years at Mortimer Jordan High School. After dropping off students at Snow Rogers, he traveled the additional 10 miles and stopped at dozens of more stops to pick up the remaining high schoolers. I never saw him again after transferring to Corner High School, where I graduated.

At Corner, Vonda Fields saw to it that the students on the north side of the Warrior River made it to school safely. She too was entertaining, but mostly for her unique ways of punishing students that acted out of line. She would literally “ground” students and make them sit up front in the seats behind her for up to a month. It was pure torture for a teenager.

Vonda and I had the opportunity to work together several years following my graduation while I worked at my hometown newspaper.

School bus drivers are very much influential and should be commended not only by the school system, but also by students and parents. They transport precious cargo to schools throughout the county and statewide day in and day out, which at times can be a chore depending on weather conditions and the behavior of students.

Next week, Oct. 15-19, is National Bus Driver Appreciation Week. With that in mind, be sure to thank your bus driver or better yet, have your mom bake them some cookies or pick up a small gift as a token of appreciation.

After all, school bus drivers are oftentimes overlooked, but are some of the most instrumental people in many people’s lives.