Steven Buzzard may not be the strongest, richest or fastest man, but to the kids who ride his bus every morning on the way to Center School, he’s about the nicest man they’ve ever met.
In just a few short months since he started his route for the American Bus Company, “Mr. Buzz” as he’s known to his young passengers, has already made such an impression that he was recognized with a Community Spirit Award by Orland Dist. 135.
The award recognizes community members that donate their time or go the extra mile for students.
“I was so humbled when reading the care and extra time Steve takes in making sure all the children are warm and ride safely on his bus route,” D135 superintendent Dr. Janet Stutz said. “The pride and dedication that Mr. Buzzard takes is inspiring and we are grateful for him,” she said.
Buzzard, 48, never imagined himself driving a school bus. A plumber by trade, he found himself unemployed after 17 years in the business. It was his wife, Judy, who spotted ABC’s ad for bus drivers in the local paper.
“I never imagined myself as a bus driver,” he said. “I’ve driven past them a million times, but I can honestly say that for the first time in my life I truly enjoy my job. The kids make it fun for me. Even though I have to get up at 4 o’clock every morning, I still enjoy it.”
Mr. Buzz recognizes that learning starts in the morning when children board the bus for the school.
“If it’s all chaotic in their house and they have a grouchy bus driver, they’re not going to feel like learning,” he said. “If I can make them smile on the way to school they’ll have a better day. They’ll take that attitude with them in school all day.”
Before he pulls out of cul de sacs and street corners, he makes the kids recite the rules of the bus, which can also be applied to life.
“Rule No. 1, if you’re going to ride on this bus, you have to be nice,” Buzzard said. “Also, hold the handrail getting on and off the bus, and no talking back to each other. I tell the boys, if they’re talking to girls you say, she’s beautiful, or pretty or lovely.”
There’s no throwing things on the bus, either. And if you’re going to change seats, you need to let the driver know and then wait until the bus is at a complete stop.
Mr. Buzz is also the great eavesdropper of all conversations concerning Pokemon.
“They’re crazy about Pokemon,” he said. “That is their favorite thing. They can get mad at each other and two seconds later, they’re friends again.”
Noticing that some children weren’t properly attired for winter waiting at the bus stop, he distributed hats and gloves, a fact that brought Dr. Stutz to tears when reading Buzzard’s proclamation at the Feb. 10 school board meeting.
“I bundle up for the cold. I wear five shirts, sweat pants, and I’m still cold,” he said. “If I’m that cold than the kids have to be cold. It takes a long time for the bus to warm up. As long as i know their hands and heads are warm. ”
Before Christmas break, Buzzard delivered a busload of kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders to school wearing Santa hats. He also wipes the bus down with Lysol so that nobody gets sick and has to miss school.“It’s the dad and grandfather in me,” he says.
Buzzard’s compassion for children stems from his childhood. His own father was not demonstrative or generous with compliments when he was growing up
“I was left with a lot of scars on the inside,” Buzzard said. “I don’t want these kids to go around living like that. They don’t need to go around feeling this negativity.”
Later, when Buzzard married and became a father and stepfather himself, his father told him he was proud of the man he became.
“That was worth more to me than a million bucks,” he said.
Buzzard’s days as a school bus driver may be numbered. Although he loves his job, he needs more than the four hours a day than it provides. He knows he doesn’t want to go back into the plumbing business, where he felt pressured by bosses to upsell products to elderly women who only needed their hot water heaters repaired.
Buzzard would love to work in a school, perhaps as a custodian.
“I would like a job where I can shine like driving a bus,” he said. “I just want to be a good man.”