By Alan Sorensen
Havre Public Schools bus driver Karen Scheuerman is this years Montana Special Needs Driver of the Year.
QStraint, the maker of child restraints and seat belts for buses and the awards sponsor, made its presentation to Scheuerman during the Montana Association for Pupil Transpor-tation annual meeting in Hamilton June 19. The award included a gift of $100.
The recommendations we received concerning your character, abilities as a driver, and consideration for your riders were exemplary, QStraint General Manager John Goss said in Scheuermans award letter. It is people like you that make the world not only safer, but a better place as well.
Scheuerman has between three and four different routes each day. The number of riders hasnt exceeded nine at any one time.
Were really down this year, Scheuerman said. At noon, with preschoolers, it can vary anywhere from two to five.
She said shes particularly fond of the preschoolers, many of whom end up in regular classrooms.
Ive had a lot of these children, and its wonderful to see them grow, Scheuerman said. And its hard to see them go.
Scheuermans letter of nomination was signed by Ginger Zanto, director of transportation for Havre Public Schools, and Superintendent Kirk Miller.
Scheuerman, whose first name is pronounced car-en, has driven more than 400,000 miles for Havre schools during the past 18 years. On Wednesday, she received her safe driving pin for driving 12 consecutive years without an accident.
Scheuerman has driven a special needs bus for 14 years, according to Zanto. Students on Scheuermans route range in age from preschool age through high school whose handicap conditions that require them to use wheelchairs.
Zanto said Scheuerman has always gone the extra mile for her students.
She takes the time to learn about the childs physical and mental handicaps and tries to help them appreciate the bus ride, Zanto said. She makes sure that students are comfortable and always greets them with a smile and positive body language.
Zanto also credited Scheuerman with being an excellent communicator between the school and parent. She added that parents have every confidence that Scheuerman will treat their children with kindness and give them a safe ride to and from school.
Two special education teachers and a parent also wrote letters to QStraint recommending Scheuerman for the award.
Chris Maristuen, a special ed teacher in Havre for 24 years, is in her 15th year of working with Scheuerman.
Karen relates well with all students, children from preschool age to students of 20 who are wheelchair bound, Maristuen said. Karen is tireless in her duties.
Maristuen added that Scheuermans good nature and willingness to do whatever is asked brightens her days.
I consider her to be a true advocate for special children, Maristuen said. She has made my job easier by helping me communicate with my students families. Her smile and enthusiasm make every day special.
Cheryl Carlsons son rides Scheuermans bus.
Her joy of working with children has a contagious effect certainly for those children who are lucky enough to see her first thing in the morning for the bus ride to school, Carlson said in her letter of recommendation.
My son started riding with her while attending the Special Ed Preschool classes, Carlson said. The first days of school are traumatic for any child and are even more so for children with learning disabilities. Karen makes them feel welcome from the first time they enter her bus.
My son continues to ride Karens bus and is always thrilled to see her wherever we may meet.
Karen Nave teaches a self-contained class with severely or multiply handicapped students at Havre Middle School. Nave has frequently ridden the bus during her 10 years with the district.
Karen definitely exhibits all of the characteristics one would desire in a bus driver for special needs students, Nave said. Most basically, she is safe.
Nave listed Scheuermans flexibility and efficiency among her assets, and also cited Scheuermans ability to respond constructively to problems as they arise.
Lastly, Karen cares, Nave said. She is not mushy or condescending with the students, but honestly cares about each of them. She will go out of her way to attend special events on her own time or inquire about their well being. She treats students with dignity and respect, mindful of their age and privacy and always remembers to talk to them, whether they are able to respond or not.
Scheuerman, who said she cant remember now what she did with her award money, credits her good attitude with having an excellent aide, Margo Chinadle.
Everyone is welcome to wave at Scheuerman as she cheerfully maneuvers Blue Bird Handy Bus #23 around town, delivering her special cargo to and from Havres schools.