“A large kid punched me in the stomach everyday when we would get off at the bus stop,” Coger wrote. “My mom and the school tried to stop it but nothing worked. Then came Lester. He thought of a brilliant plan. When he drove the bus to the end of the street to turn around, he would let me off there and then pull on down to the regular stop and let off the kid. The whole problem was solved and I think he is heroic.”
Coger’s essay was selected from about 900 that were submitted from students around North America who told of their school bus drivers' dedication to the job. The essays were judged by representatives from Thomas Built, SCHOOL BUS FLEET, School Transportation News and the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT).
NAPT Executive Director Mike Martin said that he was touched by how Chancellor’s essay made him recall his own negative experiences with bullying as a child. “I got goose bumps when I read how this driver’s actions had such an effect on not only the safety of one student, but on the bruised confidence and sense of security that is associated with bullying,” Martin said. “This exact experience is what led to my career in pupil transportation.”
LeMasters and Chancellor were recognized at this fall's NAPT Summit in Portland, Ore. Thomas Built included trip expenses for the winners as part of their contest prize package. Other prizes included a laptop computer and educational savings bond for Coger and a $1,000 Visa gift card for LeMasters.
Thomas Built Buses established the "Children's Choice School Bus Driver of the Year" essay contest in 2006 to recognize how drivers make a difference in the lives of children who ride their buses. The contest invites children across North America to nominate their favorite school bus driver and thank them for their dedicated service. In West Virginia about 230,000 students travel safely to and from school aboard school buses.
“Lester is to be commended for his creative approach to protect a child,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “Constant bullying tactics can damage a child’s confidence, self-esteem and other personality traits. We must teach our students responsible behavior by making it clear to them that bullying won’t be tolerated in West Virginia, whether in school, aboard the bus or at the bus stop.”
For more information, contact the Office of School Transportation at 304-558-2711, or the Office of Communications at 304-558-2699.