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.
When Glenda Collins was on the Edneyville High School bus back in 1977, she wasn’t riding – she was navigating. During her junior and senior years, before 18 was the minimum age to operate a school bus in North Carolina, Collins was one of six of her classmates – and the only female student – at school who had bus driver jobs.
Forty-three years later, Collins has gone from inheriting her father-in-law’s Exceptional Children bus route to using her years of experience to assist hundreds of EC bus riders as they learn how to safely accompany and monitor their students as riders on her bus.
After graduating from Edneyville High, Collins and her husband – one of the other student drivers – headed overseas where he was stationed in the Marines. Once they returned to Henderson County in the 1980’s, Collins resumed her job driving morning and afternoon bus routes. When her father-in-law retired, Collins picked up his EC bus route, and has chosen to drive an EC bus ever since.
It’s a bit different than driving a standard route, Collins explains. Since Exceptional Children students are matched with specialists at schools that best serve their individual learning and healthcare needs, they may attend schools outside their homes’ districts. So instead of dropping her North Henderson High and Apple Valley Middle students off at neighborhoods, she takes them to and from a transfer hub at East Henderson High.
Collins’ bus also has a wheelchair lift and seats equipped for car seats and harnesses. In her decades as an EC bus driver, she’s become somewhat of a specialist in supporting EC assistants who serve as EC bus riders.
“I show them how to do the lift, because most buses are different,” some with buttons and others with levers, Collins says. She reinforces what the EC riders learn from HCPS physical therapists, including how to properly secure students in car seats, seatbelts, and harnesses – and she shares that each child’s particular needs means tailoring how and where they sit on the bus.
Collins says working closely with teachers, social workers, specialists, and counselors lets her know which students can sit together peacefully, how to keep each of them calm and happy during their ride, and how to troubleshoot potential negative behaviors.
“Her communication with these students and EC teachers is crucial between home and school,” says EC teacher assistant Jean Leatherman, who had the opportunity to be Collins’ assistant rider twice a week from 2010 to 2018.
Leatherman says in addition to her wealth of knowledge and regularly communicating with her students’ teachers, Collins keeps detailed notes on the specific needs of her students, so she can best provide for them on her bus.
“I still have the pleasure of welcoming many of our high school EC students here at North in the mornings,” says Leatherman. “Glenda Collins’ warmth, love, and kind words enable these young adults to always have a great beginning to their school day.”