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.
Anywhere Esther Quinones goes will be left tidier than she found it – and Bus # 257 is no exception.
In addition to driving morning and afternoon bus routes for Etowah Elementary, Quinones is a custodian at the school and at Historic Johnson Farm, the heritage education museum owned by Henderson County Public Schools. Johnson Farm executive director Mandy Gibson and Etowah administrators all say the same thing: Quinones has a strong work ethic and takes great pride in her roles at the farm and school.
“She often gets to Etowah at 5 a.m. to clean before driving her morning route, comes to the farm to clean (even after 100+ kids have wrecked our small bathrooms), drives her afternoon route, and sometimes goes back to school to clean more,” says Gibson. “She is an extremely hard worker and makes sure everything is the cleanest it can be.”
“She keeps the cleanest bus I have ever seen, and I have been around a bunch of bus drivers!” says Etowah principal Matthew Haney.
Not only is Quinones’ bus a clean bus, it’s a disciplined one. “I love my kids, but I’m strict and firm with them,” she says. “Because it’s so important for them to understand and respect the rules on the bus so they don’t get hurt.”
Even though she’s strict, it’s clear that Quinones cares about each and every one of her students, says Gibson. “She has started doing a word of the week where she posts a word on her bus and asks the students to learn the definition and then demonstrate that word throughout the week. If the students come to her with how they demonstrated it, they are entered to get a prize,” Gibson says.
Quinones says she truly enjoys being around students, which is why she’s dedicated to driving school buses – wherever she may live. Quinones started driving in Orange County, California, 21 years ago, and moved to Henderson County nine years ago.
“I’ve always had it in my mind, if we move to a different state, I’m going to get a job driving school buses,” she says. “When I moved here, right away I got my CDL.”
Quinones gave herself a year to learn the lay of the land, then began driving for HCPS. She took a job in the cafeteria at Mills River Elementary to become acquainted with the schools, and now has a bus route in Western North Carolina that she prefers much more than the bustle of her old Orange County route.
“It’s completely different here. I drive through the hills and mountains that permit me to enjoy the four seasons of the year,” Quinones says. “I see turkeys cross in front of me, I see deer, different kinds of birds. Here, I enjoy it.”