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Springfield Pubic Schools’ bus driver Donna Doke was recently honored for going the extra mile during the 48th Annual Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation Conference. In winning Springfield’s School Bus Driver of the Year Award, Doke humbly states that she just goes by the book, and wants everyone to arrive at their destination with a smile. KSMU’s Shannon Bowers went for a ride along.
“I want to commend every driver. We care. It’s not just me.”
Doke has been working as a bus driver for the district for almost 20 years. She has been accident-free the entire time and has a long list of skills and accomplishments. On top of that, she is certified to train new drivers.
“I am one of these; I do it by the book. I do it the way it’s supposed to be done. I don’t cut corners. And as far as a trainer, it doesn’t bother me to go up and talk to someone,” Doke said.
I observe as she shows her trainee, David Pewitt, everything that is needed to be done before, during and after the ride on bus 421. On average, it takes seven minutes to check the bus inside and out before she can pull out of the parking lot at the safety recommended five miles per hour.
I asked Pewitt how he felt about having the bus driver of the year as his trainer.
“Seems like I got the best of all worlds here. So if I can pass her training, I’m gonna be good,” Pewitt said.
Doke specializes in transporting students with special needs. She is certified as a first observer for Homeland Security, drug and alcohol abuse for supervisors certified, and Crisis Prevention Institute certified.
Last year, she was thrilled to take 8th place at the National Special Needs School Bus Road-eo. The round that put her over the top was the mock bomb threat event, where she was required to quickly evacuate students with various needs out of her bus safely.
“If you didn’t get all those kids off within two minutes, you died. And we were one of three; only three made it out alive,” Doke said.
Rick Emling, director of transportation for Springfield Public Schools, brags about his safety devoted drivers. Some of that he attributes directly to Doke.
"We’ve got a very large group of very dedicated, very caring individuals, very safe individuals that work here; partially because Donna has trained most of them. And she sort of imparts her wisdom, and her knowledge and her passion upon people, and it’s a credit to her. She’s not only doing… is that good of a driver but she’s creating that type of driver as well,” Emling said.
“I love my job. I love being a bus driver. I don’t think there is a better job in the world,” said Doke.
According to the Transportation Research Board, in 2011, school buses represented 25 percent of the miles traveled by students but account for less than four percent of traffic injuries, a statistic Donna Doke and other safety-oriented drivers are helping to keep low.
For KSMU News, I’m Shannon Bowers.