MERIDIAN, Idaho — It's tough to be a school bus driver right now in the Treasure Valley. There have been a lot of complaints recently about late pick-ups and drop-offs, and it hasn't been easy to find qualified drivers for our local school bus companies. Meridian mom Cyndee Waynonyi has noticed the backlash.
"I feel like there's a lot of negativity over bus drivers over the last few years, we've had a really hard time finding bus drivers who are reliable or who even want to do the job," Waynonyi said.
But, in the West Ada School District, there is a Cascade Student Transportation bus driver who really shines. His name is Eric Jimenez, and parents like Cyndee are noticing. Her 8-year-old daughter Selah rides his bus every morning.
"He's usually on time," said Selah.
Something special happened at the start of this school year, something that really impressed Cyndee. Jimenez sent a letter home for the kids who ride his bus. Here is what it said:
Cyndee was really touched by the positive and uplifting letter, and she wanted to recognize Jimenez. She sent the letter and some photos to us at KTVB! We put the letter and the pictures on Facebook, and that appreciation post was liked and shared by hundreds! Jimenez could not believe it when he found out that he was being honored.
"The morning it went viral, I walked into the bus barn after my route and my coworkers were like hey check it out! I was completely humbled and honored to be mentioned, it was just a complete surprise," said Jimenez.
Jimenez says this is nothing new, he has been sending home a letter for years now.
"Just creating that positivity in a space where I don't know where these kids are coming from or what home life is like, if I can be that adult to create that safe space for these kids. These are the expectations. This is who I am. This is what the kind of culture I want to cultivate on the bus," said Jimenez.
He says he takes this job, and his responsibility very seriously. He wants to help shape kind and positive kids, and he says one way to do that is to get to know each one, and recognize their struggles and strengths. He wants to create a safe place for them on his bus.
"I feel like I am tasked with taking care of all these beautiful children," said Jimenez. "My goal is to try to eliminate bullying one step at a time. Everyone has a story, even the bully has a story. What's causing you to feel the way you are feeling and acting? There's a story behind that."
Selah says he takes care of all of the students, and makes sure they are good to each other. If there is a problem, they will talk it out.
"If someone's being mean to anyone he will always fix it," said Selah.
That means a lot to her mom, and all the other families who have kids who ride Jimenez's bus.
"The insight to see into what our kids need is special," said Cyndee. "For him to take the time out and actually write this note, it shows a lot of incentive, and honestly it shows joy for his work. We get in the routine of work not realizing the impact we have on other people, and he knows it and I think that's really cool."
Jimenez says he plans to drive the bus as long as he feels he is making an impact on his students.
"I've always had this heart for teaching kids, being around kids, I'm helping to build the leaders of tomorrow."
He is doing that one bus ride at a time.
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