In a small building behind the Vehicle Maintenance Facility sits the VMF Learning Cottage. Each ACPS bus driver makes their way through this building as they take the required courses to earn their CDL (commercial driver’s license). And Training Specialist Jennifer Green meets each and every one of them.
In fact, Jennifer took these same types of classes when she started with ACPS as a bus driver in 1995, until 2018, when she stepped down from behind the wheel and to the front of a classroom. (Although she still sometimes finds herself behind the wheel to fill in as a substitute driver.)
She first took the driver’s seat to be able to spend more time with her son, who at the time attended ACPS schools, and to have a more flexible schedule.
“I wanted to be able to have the same schedule as him and have the same days off as him,” she said. But it was her other riders who kept her in the seat long after her son graduated in 2005.
Her goal has always been to transport her riders from home to school and back in a way that is not only safe for the students, but for other drivers on the road as well.
“Maneuvering a bus is not the same as driving a car or truck,” she said. “You’re driving a several-ton vehicle that can really hurt people if you’re not careful.”
This is what she teaches trainees in the classroom over two weeks before she takes them on the bus for behind-the-wheel training. They cover subjects like the mechanics of the bus, how to drive it, student safety and first aid, and — most importantly, according to Jennifer — student management.
“The student management part is important,” she said. “Sometimes when people think about driving a bus, they forget that there are kids on the bus too. So not only are you watching the road and other drivers, there’s up to 60 kids behind you that you’re watching too.”
It’s important to build a bond with the students, she said, but to be firm about safety at the same time. For Jennifer, that was by “saying what you mean and meaning what you say.”
That policy is what made her a beloved driver. She tells a story related to her by another driver, who was approached in a doctor’s office waiting room by a stranger who asked if he was a bus driver. When he responded yes, she asked if the driver knew a Jennifer Green.
“She was one of my riders back in the day and still remembered me,” she said. “She was even able to send me a letter about how much she enjoyed riding my bus. And that impact right there, that’s why I still do this.”
Jennifer’s main goal, she said, is to put good bus drivers out on the road.
“I always tell people, if I can drive a bus, so can you.”