Copeland Elementary School bus driver Joyce Key was named Driver of the Year at the fourth annual Bus Drivers’ Appreciation Banquet Thursday night at Meadowview Middle School.
Assistant Superintendent Charles Graham set the tone for the evening as he welcomed more than 325 participants to the annual homage to the captains of the long yellow vehicles by thanking all present for their support of the county schools transportation services.
“The best way to describe what I and parents think about you is imagine putting your 5-year-old on a 32,000 pound school bus at 5 in the morning with the expectation they will come back safe, healthy and happy that afternoon,” said Graham. “Parents do this every day because of the professional job you do.” He noted county buses travel 6,550 miles every day and there were still 104,800 miles left to drive in the school year. He said the system’s buses have already traveled 1,074,200 miles this year.
Transportation Director Rodney Hardy said Key is a graduate of Surry Central who lives in Copeland and began driving a school bus 29 years ago while she was Parent Teacher Organization president at Copeland. He said her husband, Wade, was supportive of her decision because it kept her close to their daughter, Emily.
“Joyce is a cancer survivor as she battled throat cancer in 2006,” Hardy said. He told the group Key enjoys buying gifts for others and bought note pads shaped like buses for the drivers to take notes on in meetings.
Hardy said her favorite thing is to give treats to student riders for good behavior and said the system was grateful to have her as a part of their team.
“Mrs. Key has now driven two generations of students in her 29 years without having an accident,” said Hardy. “We thank you for the excellent job of keeping our students safe not only this year but your entire career.”
Cedar Ridge Elementary bus driver Mike Lowe provided musical entertainment with parodies set to popular tunes. Original titles he debuted included “Duct Tape on my Camera,” “That Kid,” and “I Drive in Sunshine and on a Cloudy Day.” Professional humorist Glen Ward was the guest speaker for the event, providing impressions of his own.
Ward’s topics included smart phones which cannot understand a southern accent, “Carolinizing” certain medical phrases and reflections on life lessons he learned growing up in South Carolina.
“Humanity is wonderful,” said Ward. “Unlike UPS or FedEx there are lives and not freight in your hands. At the eve of every day all the moms, dads, grandmothers and grandfathers want to see is a lot of little people get off those yellow buses.”
Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves’ closing speech included a light-hearted look at the difficulties of winter’s weather as portrayed through the system’s automatic message system. Reeves praised the efforts of the drivers. Mount Airy and Elkin Board of Education members present were recognized as were Surry County Board of Education members Sue Stone and Brian Gates and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Terri Mosley. North Carolina Board of Public Instruction Section Chief Derek Graham was also recognized. The support of Gary and Charlotte York was also honored.
“My wife, Charlotte and I are go grateful for this opportunity to honor you,” said York. “You set the stage every morning with a positive attitude for the children who are at that door. A warm smile and a kind word start the day. I applaud your servants’ hearts. Let all remember through giving you receive.”
Other drivers nominated for the Driver of the Year honor were: Jerry Hold, Carolyn Fulk, Kenneth Moore, Crystal Jessup, Lynn Quesinberry, Janette Garrish, Lynnette Forrest, Audine Royall, Betty Moore, B.D. Reece, Berth Whitaker, Jessie Smith, Randy Edwards, Dustin Marshall, Cynthia McCraw, Debbie Money, Paula Grey, Louvanica Miller and Gordon Jones.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.