The week of Feb. 10-14 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.
At any given moment, Jennifer Nava is singing “Good morning! Bruce Drysdale Elementary, this is Jennifer,” into the phone tucked under her chin, while simultaneously pressing the button to unlock the front doors for a parent, then greeting them while scribbling out their visitor pass sticker – often switching seamlessly between conversations in English and Spanish.
“Jennifer is our bilingual head of office guru,” says Kathryn Thompson, 3rd grade dual language teacher at Bruce Drysdale. “She answers phones, translates, greets families, multitasks demanding teachers’ and students’ wants and needs – all with a smile on her face and using kind words. In addition to her superwoman powers, she also drives our BDS bus in the afternoon!”
Nava picked up a bus driver job seven years ago, figuring if her brother could handle driving a school bus in bustling New York City, she could navigate Western North Carolina. Plus, the job had a schedule that allowed Nava to spend time during the day with her baby daughter.
“I started driving Bus 17 in 2013 – it was the oldest bus in the fleet,” she says, pantomiming cranking the bus doors open.
Once her daughter got a little older, Nava started working as Bruce Drysdale’s front office manager when BJ Laughter became principal in 2016. And she thrives in a space where she can regularly speak with teachers, students, and families in two languages.
“When I was 10, my parents decided I would learn Spanish, and we all learned as a family. I kicked and screamed at the time but now I’m so thankful,” Nava says.
“It’s cool to be at a dual language school because it’s a bunch of like-minded parents who value language learning,” says Nava, adding, “I wish I knew more languages, because we have a lot of (Micronesian families) that speak Pohnpeian.”
Nava says she loves being a BDS Bearkitten ambassador – whether that’s on the bus or in the office.
“I enjoy being here in the office because I get to talk to the parents that I could only wave to when I was a bus driver,” she says. “But I love listening to the kids conversations; they’re such interesting little people.”
And students seem to remember Nava’s infectious smile and kind nature, long after they’ve outgrown their elementary school.
“The kids I drove when I first started back in the day are in 11th grade,” says Nava. “And they actually still wave to me when I drive down (their road)!”