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.
Given the frequency that students see their bus drivers and custodians before, during, and after school, it’s no wonder that the school staff members often become role models for children.
And some, like David Jacklin, truly excel at supporting students through mentorship.
A relatively new bus driver for Etowah Elementary, Jacklin has made himself indispensable at the school, using his prior work experience to forge relationships with the students who need it most.
Jacklin began his career in cardiac rehabilitation, where – he said – “I got real quick experience working with people.” After about 15 years in healthcare, Jacklin directed community outreach at Park Ridge Health, before serving as director of community impact for the United Way of Henderson County from 2011-2015. From there, Jacklin worked to eliminate homelessness in Henderson County through the nonprofit Homeward Bound, until his position was eliminated due to funding.
After that, Jacklin said, “I was trying to make ends meet.” Since he comes from a family of educators and his wife teaches at Edneyville Elementary, Jacklin said applying for a job with the local public schools was a no-brainer.
In January 2018, he began driving afternoon bus routes for Etowah Elementary, where he also works as a custodian. But it’s the work he does in between that stands out, say administrators and teachers.
“From day one, he has taken it upon himself to get to know our students and their interests,” said 4th grade teacher Megan Cockman. “He goes out of his way to talk to one of my students every time he sees him, and it truly brightens that child’s day.”
Principal Matthew Haney said that Jacklin is also one of the school’s volunteer mentors in Etowah Elementary’s “Sunshine Kids” program, which pairs school staff members with students who could use positive role models in their lives.
“He mentors specific students, meets with them periodically, and has lunch with them,” Haney said.
Jacklin said, “Sometimes, it’s easier for kids to approach somebody who’s not their teacher.”
That’s why he’s taken his role as a Sunshine Kids’ mentor a bit further, and offers a listening ear to any student who may be having issues or causing distractions in class.
“I have four or five (students) on my radar, and if they’re having a bad day I’ll check with the teacher,” Jacklin said. “Sometimes, it’s just diffusing a situation.”
Some days that means Jacklin asks a student to help with a small custodial job, like dust mopping, or if it’s a spring day, he’ll ask for help “taking a butterfly inventory” outside in the garden. He said if the student doesn’t want to talk, they just walk for a few minutes and Jacklin tells them he’s thinking of them and he’ll check in later with a high five.
“Everybody has bad days,” Jacklin said. “Sometimes it’s just enough that someone listens to you.”
– By Molly McGowan Gorsuch
Public Information Officer