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.
Called the “dynamic duo” by Bruce Drysdale Elementary administrators, Linda Blake and Brooke Freeman do everything they can to make every student riding their bus feel happy, comfortable, and loved.
Even if it means singing a viral children’s song that gets stuck in their heads all day.
Freeman explained there’s one child riding their bus who becomes very upset when she has to say goodbye to her parents each morning, and begins to cry. But she stops as soon as Freeman leads the bus in a rousing rendition of “Baby Shark.”
“So we’re sitting there doing the hand motions all the way to school,” laughed Freeman.
To be clear, Freeman is the rider on the Exceptional Children bus for students with special needs, leaving her hands free for all the goofy song motions; Blake’s hands are firmly on the wheel.
Blake has her own way of showing the students she cares, though. As soon as she comes to one of her stops, she hands small bags of chips or cookies to the children as they get off the bus.
“When they get off (your bus), you don’t know what they’re going home to,” Blake said. “So I make sure they have a treat to snack on.”
Blake has been driving school buses for nearly 30 years, getting her start on the big yellow rigs in Myrtle Beach. While in South Carolina, she transitioned to driving an EC bus, and wanted to do the same when she first started working for Henderson County Public Schools. Blake said she prefers the smaller busloads and having a rider – despite the fact that Freeman does a little backseat driving.
“She’s just fun,” Blake said of Freeman. “She reminds me of my daughters.”
And after four years of riding the same routes together, Freeman has come to think of Blake as her second mother.
“We just click,” shrugged Blake.
The two women joke with each other throughout the day, calling each other by nicknames they’ve created over the years, and recounting stories of their joint travels – including the only time Blake has kicked Freeman off the bus.
“She was in labor on the bus and I made her get off,” Blake said.
“I was trying to make it to my due date,” explained Freeman. “I was hurting but I was thinking, ‘I’ll be able to get through the day.’”
“I said, ‘Brooke what’s wrong with you?’” Blake said. “She started doing these faces.”
“(Linda) said, ‘I ain’t delivering no baby on this bus,” Freeman recalled, laughing. “Call your momma and get off.”
Freeman met up with her mother at the Ingles on Howard Gap, and delivered her son the next day.
“They are a great team,” said Assistant Principal Oscar Robinson. “They work together like hand and glove, (and are) courteous, respectful, dependable, reliable, kind, caring, totally professional and a joy for students, parents and staff.”
– By Molly McGowan Gorsuch
Public Information Officer