LAKE ORION, Mich. — For Dawn Lemaster, there’s a lot more to school bus driving than just picking up and dropping off students.
Lemaster, who has been a bus driver for Lake Orion Community Schools for 15 years, makes riding the bus fun and educational with an on-bus quiz game, a bus safety program and a portable library that encourages kids to read on the bus.
Lemaster earned top placement in the Thomas Built Buses Children’s Choice School Bus Driver of the Year essay contest, the company announced on Wednesday.
Ten-year-old Charlotte, a fourth-grade student at Carpenter Elementary, nominated Lemaster, saying she was “the most fun, loving, caring and awesome bus driver I’ve ever had!”
As the 2012 grand prize winner, Lemaster will receive a $1,000 Visa gift card. Charlotte will receive a $1,000 education savings bond and a laptop computer. Both also will receive Thomas Built jackets and lunch boxes.
Driver James Crockett of Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools, nominated by sixth-grader Rahul, was one of two runners-up. Driver Gregg Cunningham of West Noble School Corp. in Ligonier, Ind., nominated by sixth-grader Kendra, was the second runner-up.
The runner-up drivers and nominating students will receive Thomas Built jackets and lunch boxes.
The Children’s Choice contest began in 2005. Since then, thousands of children have nominated their favorite bus drivers in 90-word essays that often include original artwork and photos of themselves with their drivers. More than 750 students from 28 states entered the contest this year.
“We are committed 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, Thomas Built president and CEO. “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.”
Essays were judged for content and originality by Alex Robinson, president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation; Tim Flood, president-elect of the National School Transportation Association; Max Christensen, president of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services; Thomas McMahon, executive editor of SCHOOL BUS FLEET; and Ryan Gray, editor of School Transportation News.