Thomas Built Buses selects School Bus Driver of the Year

Pictured are Bryan Breck, Leslie Andrews, John Watson and Samantha Mazzara.

Hampstead, N.C. school bus driver Leslie Andrews has been recognized by Thomas Built Buses as School Bus Driver of the Year.

Andrews, who earned the top honor in the Thomas Built Buses 2013 Children’s Choice School Bus Driver of the Year Essay Contest, has been a bus driver for Pender County Schools for 13 years. Four students nominated Andrews as school bus driver of the year in this year’s contest. Of those entries, two students were recognized as grand prize winners of the contest. 

Eight-year-old John Watson, a second grader at South Topsail Elementary in Hampstead, is one of the two grand prize winners. 

In his essay nominating Andrews, he said, “She shows us how to love others. She shows us how to do things right and help other kids.”  He goes on to explain how she deeply cares for all of her students, is patient, and strives to keep students safe every day. 

Ten-year-old Samantha Mazzara, a fifth grade student at South Topsail Elementary School in Hampstead, also nominated Andrews to win the grand prize, saying the school bus driver “is involved in her community, loves helping people of all ages, and wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

For Andrews, there’s a lot more to school bus driving than just picking up and dropping off students. Andrews works double duty as a school bus driver and in the school cafeteria. She is also heavily involved in the community, oftentimes orchestrating donation drives throughout the year for local charities.

As the 2013 School Bus Driver of the Year, Andrews will receive a $1,000 Visa gift card, a laptop computer and a Thomas Built Buses jacket. Essay contest winners Watson and Mazzara, who nominated Andrews, will each receive a laptop computer, $500 Visa gift card, and Thomas Built Buses jackets.

Lori Lake of Loudoun County Schools in Lovettsville, Va. was recognized as the Runner Up for the School Bus Driver of the Year Award and will receive a Thomas Built Buses jacket.

Breck Bryan, age 12, of Topsail Middle School in Hampstead, N.C. and George Zach, age 9, of Lovettsville Elementary in Lovettsville, Va.  were also recognized with Thomas Built Buses jackets as runners up for their essays.

Now in its eighth year, the Children’s Choice School Bus Driver of the Year contest was initiated as part of Thomas Built Buses’ 90th anniversary celebration in 2005. Since then, thousands of school bus-riding children have nominated their favorite bus drivers in 90-word essays that often include original artwork or photos of themselves with their drivers.

Essays were judged for content and originality by Mario DiFoggio, manager of the center for education and marketing at Thomas Built Buses; Sylvia Arroyo, managing editor ofSchool Transportation News, Thomas McMahon, executive editor of School Bus Fleetmagazine; Bill Tousley, NAPT executive team; Leon Langley, NASDPTS president-elect; and Donald Fowler, NSTA immediate past president.

“We are committed to building safe, dependable buses, and we recognize, too, the important role of drivers in transporting children safely to and from school,” says Kelley Platt, Thomas Built president and CEO. “This contest lets us say ‘thank you’ to the school bus drivers who take such good care of their cherished passengers, and to recognize their significant roles in students’ lives.”