Festive Bus: PRC bus driver delights students
Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2016
Many of the bus drivers for the Pearl River County School District pick their students up in festively decorated buses, including Jane Leaming.
Originally from Chalmette, Louisiana, Leaming and her husband Harold moved to Pearl River County after losing their home during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
“We moved about nine times after Katrina,” she said. “We lived in trailers and tried to rent houses. And we finally said, “we need to settle down.” Some of my family had already moved here. I love it here and don’t want to move.”
Prior to 2005, Leaming traveled with her husband, who is a boilermaker.
“When I was a kid in school, I took geography and wondered if I would ever see all the states,” Leaming said. “I’ve been to every state in the country now.”
Leaming worked in a variety of fields. She is a former bank teller and sold produce.
Nine years ago, at 58, Leaming decided she wanted to drive a school bus.
Before she could drive a bus, Leaming completed a written test, trained to drive and took a test conducted by a representative from the state department.
By the time she had training, Leaming said was used to driving the big yellow bus.
However, her favorite part of the job is the children. Leaming drives a route and transports children from home to the upper elementary.
“I’ve had some children since they were in kindergarten,” she said. “They come up to me in the grocery store and give me hugs and kisses.”
For the past five or six years, Leaming has been decorating her school bus to celebrate each holiday. It is currently decorated with green shamrocks, leprechauns and green beads in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
Pearl River County School District Transportation Director Lisa Beech said drivers participate in a friendly competition to see who can decorate their bus the best.
“I like the holidays and seeing the joy in the kids’ faces,” Leaming said. “Some don’t get to see things like that.”
Leaming said the decorations are just one of the treats her students look for when they enter her bus.
“I play music,” she said. “I tell them in the evening, if they want to listen to music, they need to be good. Before I had the radio, I cheered. If you keep them going, they want to get on the bus.”
Leaming also wears a special holiday outfit, which is something all the bus drivers do, she said. Her outfits include a hairpiece, jewelry and festively colored nails. Also, she leads a birthday sing-a-long during each child’s birthday.
Leaming, now 67, said she will drive a bus for as long as she can.
“As long as my husband and I don’t get sick,” she said. “I see too many people retire and they are miserable. This is where I’m meant to be.”
Beech said Leaming, like all her drivers, put extra effort into their jobs on daily basis.
“She encourages them to come to school, and that’s the most important thing, is to get them here,” Beech said. “She’s never had children of her own and she’s adopted all these.”
Leaming said the bus drivers at PRC are like a family. They help each other both professionally and personally.
“It’s a good job, especially for an older person,” Leaming said. “I look at the children and treat them how I would treat my own child. It makes me feel good when I see the older kids I used to drive in college and working and say ‘wow, I may have had a hand in that.’’’