One group of Fort Mill parents must surely breathe easier knowing that Diann Benson is driving their children to school.
Benson, 47, is Fort Mill's school bus driver of the year. And for good reason. She's devoted to ensuring that the students she drives to Fort Mill middle and elementary schools are safe and secure. She also focuses on making the trip as pleasant as possible.
Earlier this week, staff writer Karen Bair described the steps Benson takes at each stop to ensure the safety of her young riders. She checks and double-checks each safety mirror before motioning students toward the bus. After the children are seated, she checks the mirrors again, blows the horn, and moves forward.
"You wait and make sure there aren't any kids running," she said. "It's a big responsibility. There's a lot to learn. Loading and unloading is where the most kids get killed."
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We assume all school bus drivers are this focused on student safety. We hope each one takes the extra steps to ensure that all children are safely aboard.
But we doubt all of them are as devoted to making the trip as pleasant as is Benson.
Students marvel at her bus' cleanliness. She greets children in the morning with a cheerful, "Good morning." She requires them to follow the rules but scolds in a non-threatening tone.
Nobody is allowed to make fun of another child.
She gets to work early, arriving at the Fort Mill High School bus lot an hour before her scheduled 6:30 a.m. departure.
As the Fort Mill district's school bus driver of the year, Benson is nominated for state Bus Driver of the Year. In recent years, the Fort Mill district has been among the state's leaders in winning championships, from marching bands to basketball teams.
We hope Benson gets the district started off this year with another title.
Diann Benson, Fort Mill's school bus driver of the year, focuses on making the ride as pleasant as possible.