DeKalb Central School Bus Driver Recognized for 40 Years of Transporting Students

posted Sep 16, 2013, 5:28 AM by webmaster district   [ updated Sep 16, 2013, 5:28 AM ]

WATERLOO — Each day, as she prepares for work, Jean Gerhart reminds herself of one thing.

“One little mistake could ruin everything,” Gerhart said. “You have to be perfect every day.”

That’s because Gerhart’s job involves transporting precious cargo — children.

She has been a school bus driver for the DeKalb Central school district for 40 years and recently received a congratulatory certificate from the Indiana Senate in recognition of her longevity.

“My best friend came over and asked me to start driving buses a week before school started,” Gerhart recalled. “They needed bus drivers. I said, ‘I don’t think I want to do that.’ She said it would be fun.”

At that time, there were no special requirements to become a school bus driver, Gerhart said.

“You just had to want to drive,” she said. “I just went to the office. They said, ‘Here’s your keys. You start next Monday.’”

In her early days of driving a school bus, Gerhart was responsible for planning her own pick-ups and maintaining her vehicle.

“They were just big, metal boxes with no extras,” Gerhart said. “You had to scrape the mirrors in the winter. There was no bus garage. When we had trouble, it was up to us to get it taken care of.”

Later, the school district established a bus garage and hired a mechanic.

Over the years, one thing has not changed much, Gerhart said.

“There’s still a lot of wonderful, great kids. There are only a couple that test you. I can’t say that I’ve really had a problem with any,” she said.

Gerhart’s routes have picked up and dropped off students in Jackson and Union townships. Her route serves children at McKenney-Harrison Elementary School and at DeKalb Middle School and DeKalb High School. She also transports students to a cooperative program in Angola. Her current route covers a total of 90 miles a day.

Gerhart has transported three generations of families and finds it especially rewarding when young students point her out to their parents who also happened to ride her bus.

Gerhart also has enjoyed taking students on field trips and transporting groups and fans to special sporting and musical events.

She drove a busload of fans to a state baseball championship game that was won by DeKalb High School.

“We had so much fun,” she said. “It was a ball.”

She also has taken the DeKalb High School show choir to state championship contests.

DeKalb Central transportation director Renee Dawson commended Gerhart and other drivers in the district for their commitment to their work.

“These guys are really connected with the kids and the families” Dawson said. “Driving a bus is a terrific job with a lot of responsibility. I just think it’s awesome that the state is recognizing what a responsibility it is.”

Article from The Star on Monday, September 16th - written by KATHRYN BASSETT