School bus driver makes a difference for students

By special contributor Anne Howell, demonstration teacher at Dan D. Rogers Elementary School


For bus driver Tamara Franklin, creating a welcoming and cheerful atmosphere in her vehicle is all in a day’s work, which for the past two years, has meant adorning her special education bus to match seasonal holidays and special events.


“I started last Halloween,” Franklin said. “I decorate my home, and I saw that some drivers put stickers around, so I thought ‘I’m going to decorate the whole bus!’”


That year, students entered the bus the next morning to find spider webs, skulls and a ghost inside.


“They were so excited,” she said. “They got to look around–their eyes lit up. And their parents got to see and they thought it was the neatest thing that their kids got to experience this.” 


Hundreds of bus drivers like Franklin in Dallas ISD make a difference in students’ lives every day as they ensure they get to school and back home safely. Their work and efforts are celebrated on April 23 during Bus Driver Appreciation Day. 


Franklin’s Halloween decorating was such a hit that she has expanded to also decorate for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and spring, and, this year, she welcomed students back to school by decorating for the first day of class. 


“Now I decorate my bus more than I decorate my house. Even the high school students want them,” Franklin said. “They say the bus looks plain without them.”


In addition to the holiday decorations, Franklin highlights student work. 


“I had a high school student who loved to draw,” she said. “You could tell him anything and he would draw it. I put up his drawings. The whole top of the bus was pasted with his drawings. You could see it made him feel good that someone appreciated his work.”


Her decorations have inspired other bus drivers to decorate as well. 


“Now we have a little friendly competition between a couple of friendly coworkers,” Franklin said. “Sometimes we would sneak on to the other person’s bus so we could see what she did and then outdo it.”


“I started posting videos because a coworker inspired me to make it public and let people see what my bus looks like,” Franklin said. “At first it was just simple, and now it has turned into a lot more.” 


Franklin has been a driver for over 20 years. Originally from Germany, she joined the U.S. Army at 18, and after marrying, she moved to Dallas, her husband’s hometown. Because she loves to drive and wanted to drive big vehicles, she started a career driving for DART. After a while, she tried an office job, but returned to her passion—driving. She wanted to do something more fulfilling, so she decided to join Dallas ISD as a CDL bus driver. 


“I knew I wanted to work with kids,” she said. “They are so joyful, fun, and carefree. There are so many children that don’t get the kind of love and attention they should, and I want to do that for them. I hope that the little things I do for them let them know there’s someone out there that cares for them.” 


Special education Monitor Kamesha Carter also contributes to the decorations on Franklin’s bus. 


“We should make them feel welcome,” Carter said. 


Franklin agrees: “The bus is the first thing they see in the morning and the last thing they see before they get home. The decorations just make a happy feeling on the bus.”


Students confirm the decorations make a difference. 


“When I see the decorations, my happiness goes up,” said fourth-grader Lenny P. “Then my day is better.”


Fourth grade student Kaycee J. finds the decorations inspiring: “When I see them I feel like I should be kind because others are kind to me to do this [decorate] for me.”


For Franklin, going the extra mile for students is no problem.


“I love my job. I really do,” she said.

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