The term school bus drivers is synonymous with superheroes. Don't believe me? Here are some examples of times school bus drivers have gone above and beyond to protect the students they transport. Or in some cases, children they've never even met.
Acting Quickly to Protect Students
On May 31, 2023, Imunek Williams was two hours into her normal bus route, transporting 37 students to the Milwaukee Academy of Science, when she began to smell something burning, and see smoke thickening.
WISN reported that because she was just two minutes away from the school, Williams almost ignored her intuition to finish her route. But ultimately, she decided to pull the bus over and investigate, a decision that likely saved lives.
Williams helped students evacuate the school bus. As soon as everyone was off, Williams turned around to see that the entire bus had become engulfed in flames. Williams told WISN that it was a good feeling to know all the kids got off safely.
Williams and her baby were evaluated and cleared at a local hospital, and she returned to her route the next day.
A school district spokesperson told School Bus Fleet, "We are very grateful for her quick actions that brought our students to safety."
The Milwaukee Brewers honored Williams for her heroism at their June 10 home game. She threw out the first pitch to the applause of the crowd.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Like Williams, another school bus driver was praised when she quickly and safely evacuated students after the bus she was driving caught fire.
A Madison (Ind.) Consolidated school bus driver was dropping students off on May 2, 2023, when smoke began billowing in the air. A resident on the street the bus was on yelled to notify the driver the bus was on fire.
The bus driver, who wanted to remain anonymous and keep the focus on the students rather than herself, quickly helped 19 Deputy Elementary School students aged kindergarten through 4th grade exit the bus in only a matter of minutes, WLKY reported.
One witness said that it appeared there was an explosion as the fire spread across the bus.
The students were all able to exit the bus safely, thanks to the quick actions of the unnamed bus driver.
During the district's May 17 Board of Trustees meeting, Secretary Michael Scott commended the bus driver and students, noting that evacuation drills do work. He added that the school district has dedicated and passionate school bus drivers.
On May 23, 2023, school bus driver Ijandor Mansey helped six students safely evacuate a school bus as it became engulfed by a fire in Queens, N.Y. The fire was so intense that it spread to nearby parked cars, according to ABC 7 NY.
Mansey, a bus driver of over 30 years, helped the students evacuate quickly, without injury.
"The bus driver was fabulous," a nearby resident said. "I think he's a true hero, and the kids, thank God nobody was hurt. The cars can all be fixed."
Mansey was recognized for his heroism by the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) with its On-Road Heart of the Industry Award.
An Ohio school bus driver's quick actions on Feb. 23, 2023, may have saved a Tecumseh Local Schools student in New Carlisle, Ohio, as he was exiting the bus.
It's no secret that the loading and unloading process are the most dangerous parts of a bus driver's route. That's why it's important for drivers to stay alert to their surroundings during this process.
Video of the incident shared by the school district showed the bus driver pulling a student back from the door as a car sped right by it. The student was beginning to walk down the steps when the driver suddenly yelled at him to stop, then grabbed his backpack, pulling him back.
At the same moment, a car that appeared to have missed the bus's stop sign pulled right next to the bus in the student's path before quickly coming to a stop.
Had the driver not pulled the student back, he may have gotten hit.
In a Facebook post, the district released a statement along with the video, saying in part: "We are feeling very grateful this evening for the alertness and quick actions of one of our amazing bus drivers."
Saving a Choking Child
A Dallas Independent School District bus driver was credited with saving a child during his morning route on Sept. 29 when the child choked on a quarter.
Seven-year-old Preston told NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth that he then walked up to bus driver Raquel Radford-Baker holding his neck to communicate that he was choking.
Radford-Baker jumped into action, guiding the child off the bus that was stopped outside an elementary school. After asking a nearby parent to call 911, she performed the Heimlich maneuver. Seconds later, the coin was dislodged.
Radford-Baker, a 17-year employee of the district's transportation services department, wasn't even Preston's normal driver. She was just filling in on another driver's route, but she was in the right place at the right time.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the district's media team said: "Not all heroes wear capes. Some, like Raquel Radford Baker, drive buses...Dallas ISD is lucky to have team members like Raquel who always put students first."
Preston and his family have since meet with Radford-Baker and thank her for what she did. She credited CPR and first aid training she received through the school district for helping her save Preston.
Preston's mother said she was inspired to receive her own CPR training, and hopes the story inspires others to do the same.
Reuniting a Child with His Parents
It's not always smoke and flames or saving a choking student that makes school bus drivers heroes, though. On Oct. 4, 2022, Kentwood (Mich.) Kelloggsville Public Schools bus driver Dave Skinner was in the middle of his morning route when two people at a bus stop alerted him that their car had just been stolen with their 2-year-old child inside.
Skinner called 911 to report the incident, then alerted nearby school bus drivers about it, video sent to School Bus Fleet shows. Thanks to that notification, Sue Figueroa, another bus driver in the area realized she had just passed a small child standing alone by a street in a residential area.
Figueroa turned around to go back to where the child was and picked him up. She put the child in one of the seats on the bus and drove him to where his parents' car had been stolen. He was quickly reunited with them, unharmed.
The week after the incident, Figueroa and Skinner were recognized for their heroic actions, along with Transportation Director Kristin Nickelson, who was coordinating the radio and buses at the time.
The three were acknowledged by the Board of Education and by Nate Engle, the West Michigan Regional Liaison of the Executive Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. They were given certificates of recognition by Gov. Whitmer.
District Superintendent Jim Alston released a statement on the bus drivers' actions, saying in part, "Their communication and thoughtful actions helped return a baby back to his parents and was unharmed."
School bus drivers may not have an opportunity to save a choking student, or evacuate them from a burning bus, but they are still superheroes in their own right for safely transporting students to and from school on a daily basis.
Know of a school bus driver who is a hero? Keep the conversation going. Let us know in the comments.