Jackson woman named Mo. Bus Driver of the Year

Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Esther Cook was recently named Missouri Bus Driver of the Year. (Submitted photo)

Jackson school bus driver Esther Cook isn't one to brag about herself. But when it comes to the children on bus 34, Cook's boastful side begins to comes out.

"These are great kids," said Cook, 68, of Jackson. "Every one of them is special and all they need is someone to look them in their eyes and really pay attention."

Named Missouri Bus Driver of the Year last Wednesday by Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation, Cook said that although the job can be challenging, her love of driving and children makes her and a school bus a perfect match.

"I am very proud and honored to be a school bus driver," Cook said. "The children on my bus have been the joy of my life, along with my own children. I feel I am a better person for being a bus driver."

Cook is a 30-year veteran of bus driving -- all for the Jackson School District -- and in that time has made many friends, big and small.

"Ms. Cook cares about others; the students on her bus, the colleagues in our schools and the parents in our community," said Terri Fisher-Reed of Jackson Middle School in her nomination statement. "Most people shy away from interpersonal relationships because they are messy and the potential for conflict lies in them. But Ms. Cook does not."

Along with Fisher-Reed, Jackson School District transportation director Carol Woods nominated Cook for the award saying "Esther Cook shines."

"She is one of the most loving people I know," Woods said in her nomination. "I try to model myself after her. She seems to always find the good in any child that rides her bus."

Cook said she has always done more than drive the children to school and back; talking to parents, buying clothes for needy children and lending them lunch money. But Cook attributes winning the Missouri Bus Driver of the Year award to keeping the children safe and the work she puts into the job.

"I love working with the kids," Cook said. "I care enough to keep the kids in their seat and if I've ever done anything that I shouldn't have -- like stop at a different house -- then it was for a good reason, like someone was sick. I do the job so that my kids are safe. These kids are like my own kids."

jsamons@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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