The week of Feb. 11-15 is North Carolina’s School Bus Driver Appreciation Week (or “Love the Bus” Week), and each day one of our dedicated drivers will be introduced to the HCPS family.
A 44-year veteran of the trucking industry, Phil Winchester traded one big yellow rig for another in 2016, when he became a bus driver for Glenn C. Marlow Elementary.
Thanks to his 32 years driving for Yellow Corp. (now YRC Freight) throughout Henderson County, Winchester already knew the rural roads along the bus routes he picked up in 2016 after retirement. The subdivisions, however, proved trickier.
“I had to learn the mouse maze,” he said, referring to the smaller streets and stops that snake subdivision bus routes.
“When I knew that I was coming to work (as a bus driver), I bet I burned two tanks of gas and 8-10 hours trying to figure out where to go,” Winchester said.
“He studied the route over the summer,” said Megan Alessi, assistant principal intern at Glenn C. Marlow. “He had me pull up (students’) names and practiced the route over the summer – with their names.”
Winchester explained it was important to him to learn the names of the students on his route as quickly as possible, so he’d be able to greet them all individually as they boarded his bus, or when he asked about their day.
“I just feel like I need to be personal,” Winchester said.
Alessi said that’s quite a feat, since Winchester transports about 100 students daily – and he’s also committed their parents’ names to memory. It’s the ease with which he builds relationships that sets Winchester apart, Alessi said.
“Outside of his position (at Glenn C. Marlow), he volunteers at a local food bank, works with the Scouts, and is a positive impact on our community,” she said.
Winchester said he’s been involved with Boy Scouts for about 29 years, since his own children were involved, and currently serves as a Lion Leader teaching kindergarten-age children. Winchester is also a former youth leader at Avery’s Creek United Methodist Church, where he’s still active volunteering in the church’s food pantry and through the men’s group.
When he’s not behind the wheel of the bus or Cub Scouting, Winchester said he can be found at ABCCM’s Veterans Restoration Quarters, where his men’s group serves meals.
“If I’m not actually serving, I cook there,” he said.
And during the winter months, Winchester annually runs Operation Snowshoe for Boy Scouts at Camp Daniel Boone. “It’s a wintertime camping experience for 4th- and 5th-graders,” he said.
This winter, Winchester also volunteered to carol with other Glenn C. Marlow Elementary staff during the school’s December tradition.
“We stopped in Riverstone, which is on his route, and he was the highlight,” Alessi said. “He’s always happy, he’s always smiling – we are so grateful for him.”
– By Molly McGowan Gorsuch
Public Information Officer