MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — School bus driver Dennis Stricker doesn’t just deliver students from point A to point B — he sets a tone focused on learning, school district officials said.
Stricker, who drives for Garlough Environmental Magnet School in West St. Paul, asks his passengers a trivia question each morning. Students search for the answer during the day and report back to Stricker on the bus ride home.
Officials said that as the first school district person these students see each day, Stricker has an impact beyond the school bus and into the classroom: By highlighting the importance of learning with his trivia questions, Stricker helps put students in the learning mindset before they enter the building.
“By asking these trivia questions, the kids have developed a relationship with Dennis that benefits everyone,” Garlough Principal Susan Powell said. “The kids arrive at school excited about the question and in a good mood for the day, which sets up every child on that bus for success. If every child arrived to school excited, smiling and wondering about something every day, I am confident student achievement would be impacted.”
The questions that Stricker asks cover aspects of science, math, history, geography and more. The tradition started two years ago when he was looking for the answer to a question and decided to ask the students on his bus. No one knew the answer in the morning, but when he picked the students up in the afternoon, they had the answer for him.
“Dennis has a genuine appeal to the students because he is always smiling and encourages them to do the best they can,” said Joe Kulhanek, transportation manager for School District 197. “He has a strong work ethic focusing on the safety of his students and being prompt and courteous to everyone he works with.”
At the Dec. 12 school board meeting, Stricker, who has worked for School District 197 for 10 years, was recognized for his outstanding work on behalf of the students. Earlier in the day, Stricker told his students about the recognition he was to receive that evening, and the students broke into applause for their driver.
“It was a fabulous ride home,” Stricker told the board.
Stricker was humbled by the praise being lauded on him by his colleagues and the board. “These people keep 197 moving,” he said. “And the wheels on the bus keep all of us moving along.”