HIGH POINT, N.C. — More than 1,000 entries were received for the fourth annual Thomas Built Buses Children’s Choice School Bus Driver of the Year national essay contest.
This year’s winning essay was submitted by 8-year-old Luke Stehr of Trussville, Ala., who nominated Renea Cataldo, a bus driver for Trussville City Schools.
"What really makes her special is her inside kindness," Stehr wrote in his essay. "Mrs. Renea, hands down, should be bus driver of the year."
Cataldo has been driving a school bus for nearly 16 years. She started by driving high school students and now transports elementary school students. She remembers their birthdays, celebrates the last week of school and brings holiday treats for her passengers.
"These kids make my day. They definitely make me feel special," Cataldo said upon learning that she was this year’s winner.
As the 2009 grand prize winner, Cataldo will receive a $1,000 Visa gift card. Stehr will receive a $1,000 education savings bond and a laptop computer, and both will receive Thomas Built Buses jackets and Saf-T-Liner C2 school bus lunch boxes.
Runners-up were Chase, who nominated driver Sam McGroom from Hillsborough, N.C., and Suzanne, who nominated driver Sheree Cook of Trussville, Ala. Honorable mentions went to Aldo, who nominated Joe Cimmarrusti of Saint Charles, Ill., and driver Walter Ritchea of Wheeling, W.Va., who was nominated by more than two dozen students.
These finalists and the drivers they nominated will receive Thomas Built jackets and Saf-T-Liner C2 school bus lunch boxes.
Essays were judged on content and originality by representatives of the National Association for Pupil Transportation, SCHOOL BUS FLEET magazine and Thomas Built Buses. Thomas Built verified driver qualifications with each district.
"The contest is a way for us to thank the school bus drivers who take such good care of their precious cargo, and to recognize the important role they play in students' lives," Thomas Built Buses President and CEO John O'Leary said.
For more information on the contest as well as photos and scans of this year’s winning essays and illustrations, visit www.thomasbus.com.