Deborah Sellers discovered her life’s calling while working as a school bus attendant following a career with convenience store 7/11. She said she loves working with children with various challenges every day as they traveled to school.
Her passion recently earned her the Special Needs Bus Driver of the Year, sponsored by wheelchair securement and mobile seating solutions manufacturer AMF-Bruns. Sellers was honored by company representatives and leaders of her employer Osceola School District during a ceremony held in her honor on Dec. 1 and she was featured on local television.
She received $1,000, a plaque and will also be recognized at a school board meeting.
“I think Debbie is the ideal special needs bus driver,” commented Arby Creach, director of transportation services for the district. “She is totally dedicated to her students, parents, the schools and the community. She has an outstanding career and [was] nominated by her peers.”
Sellers was among 80 finalists from around the nation.
“For Sellers, driving special needs children to school is a calling,” added Creach. “She really loves these children and will defend those kids. She wants to be there for them all of the time and is a great driver. We are proud to have her on the team. She has that love in her heart. She never wants to take a day off.”
Sellers told School Transportation News that she loves her job. “I love working with the kids. It takes a certain kind of person to work with special needs kids,” said Sellers, adding that she was surprised when she heard he had won the award. “I treat the kids the way I would want to be treated. I would have liked to have gotten involved sooner. I have fun when I am at work. I say good morning to every child when they get on the bus.”
Prior to school transportation, Sellers spent 15 years as an overnight manager at 7/11. She began her career in pupil transportation as a bus attendant and worked with kids to keep them occupied while they were on the bus. She has been in the pupil transportation industry for about 20 years, four of which as an attendant and 16 as a school bus driver.
Sellers said the best part of her position, and her feeling of success is the bond that she has created with children and their families that she has driven over the years. She recalled many good experiences in her school bus driving career. She shared that one of her favorite accomplishments was helping a completely non-verbal high school student learn to say “momma.”
“She could only [prounounce] the letter m…m…m, and my attendant and I would constantly say momma while on our route. One afternoon, she got off the bus and called her mother momma. The mother broke down. It was a such as special moment to me because the child’s mother told me that after so many years her daughter called her mother,” said Sellers, who also credited her coworkers when receiving the award.
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Her main priority is to transport children to and from school but she loves her responsibility to the Osceola County community. She has worked for many years with the same bus attendant whom she considers a good partner. She remembers a time when a man was having a seizure in the road. She recalled stopping the bus so the attendant could get off, and ultimately saved the man’s life.
“I don’t do this for the money. I do it for the kids and my community,” she relayed. “I hate missing days at work, so I try to be at work every day. I feel that I need to see those kids every day. I come to work, and I do my job to the best of my ability, and I do it every day.”
Sellers said she usually wakes up at 4:15 a.m. and gets ready to be at work early enough to perform a daily pre-trip inspection. “I love my job, and I love my co-workers. I need to make sure my kids are safe,” she added.
Sellers insists she has never had a bad experience as a driver. “When you work with exceptional students, you must be ready to understand the kids. I don’t think I have ever had a negative experience because I knew what to expect,” she said.
Glorybee Butterfield, an Osceola County School District area manager, praised Sellers.
“She is a joy to work with. She is very passionate about her work,” Butterfield said. “When Debbie is at work, she is all in. She does her best to make sure that our buses run smoothly each day as a school bus driver liaison. She is an employee that we can truly count on when we need to. We know that if there is something that needs to be relayed to the school staff, it will get done and done to the best of her ability. We are so glad to have Debbie as part of our team.”