Deborah Praytor, admittedly, is not the school bus driver to go to for a bear hug if you’re having a rough day. But she’s there if you need some straight talk.
“I’m not a touchy-feely person,” Praytor said.
However, she can level with middle schoolers looking to have honest conversations.
Praytor has been transporting middle schoolers for Henderson County Public Schools a total of 14 years – seven at Flat Rock Middle and seven at Hendersonville Middle – because she appreciates the middle school age.
Praytor said the students who ride her bus know she’s no-nonsense when it comes to rules on her bus. “I don’t bend the rules much,” she said. “You’re always sitting. You’re not turning around.”
But it’s also Praytor’s straightforwardness that has students seeking her out for advice.
Praytor understands that middle schoolers are at pivotal points in their lives when they have opportunities to begin making decisions that will affect the courses of their lives. She said she tries to impart the importance of continuing education and waiting to make adult decisions.
“I have a 9th grade education because I became a teenage mom,” Praytor said. “I don’t sugarcoat anything. I’m pretty straightforward.”
She said many times, students are simply seeking attention, and Praytor is happy to provide a listening ear.
“They know after so many years me of being here, who to come talk to,” she said.
And after so many years of being at Hendersonville Middle, students got a closer glimpse into Praytor’s life beyond the walls of the school, when they interviewed her last year for School Bus Driver Appreciation Week. As it turns out, Praytor’s hidden talent is archery – matched only by her “world famous beef stew.” The Mills River native dreams of visiting the Alaskan wilderness and Mt. Hood, Oregon, and says her proudest accomplishment is raising two wonderful sons – though it wasn’t always easy.
Her advice to students? “Always try your best and work hard!”
Praytor said she hopes she can provide some structure in her students’ daily lives, and help guide them to make wise decisions as they mature.
“Once they get on that bus, they’re my kids,” Praytor said. “Hopefully, (I can) make a difference.”
– By Molly McGowan Gorsuch
Public Information Officer