11/10/2010

Bus Driver Honored for Anti-Bullying Effort

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West Virginia fourth-grader Chancellor Coger had a bully problem, but his school bus driver, Lester Lemasters, came to the rescue. The little boy felt so strongly about the AFT member who helped him out that he wrote an essay and won Lemasters the title "Children's Choice School Bus Driver of the Year" last month.

Coger and Lemasters  In Chancellor's own words: "My bus driver saved my life. A large kid punched me in the stomach every day when we would get off at the bus stop. My mom and the school tried to stop it but nothing worked. Then came Lester. He thought of a brilliant plan. When he would drive the bus to the end of the street to turn around, he would let me off there and then pull on down to the regular stop and let off the kid. The whole problem was solved, and I think he is heroic."

For his caring and good thinking, Lemasters won the national title sponsored by Thomas Built Buses. The $1,000 prize also came with an all-expenses-paid trip to Portland, Ore., where he and Chancellor were recognized at the National Association of Pupil Transportation annual meeting at which Chancellor received a laptop computer and a $1,000 educational savings bond for writing the winning entry, one of 900 submitted nationwide.

Lemasters also has won a place alongside the AFT's growing ranks of Everyday Heroes.

"Lester took bullying by the horns and saved a child from a lifetime of feeling ridiculed," says Karen Guminey, president of the Monongalia County chapter of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, who has known Lemasters since he was in high school. "How proud I am."

"There's so much more to driving a school bus than the daily routine of transporting students to and from school safely and on time every day," adds Monongalia County Schools Superintendent Frank Devono. "Lester Lemasters exemplifies those truly outstanding drivers who are willing to go the extra mile for our kids." [Annette Licitra, Lauren Samet]

November 10, 2010