Henson keeps the wheels turning
In the 16 years Brandon Henson has been a bus driver he has never called in sick and never been late to work.
“There have been many mornings I have been sick or had other personal issues but I have never been late,” Henson said. “I am dedicated to doing any job, especially one involving student safety.”
Henson, 38, became a bus driver in 1998 while he was working as a social studies and science teacher at Chase Middle School. His principal asked if he would get his bus driver license so he could sub for drivers if needed.
“I had always considered it. When I went through the class, before I was even finished he (principal) had a route waiting on me because a lady had to leave. I started in October of 1998 and I’ve been driving ever since,” Henson said. “At first it was purely income related. It was the need for another income and it tied in perfectly with my school day. Now that I’ve done it for so long, I can’t imagine not doing it.”
Henson said his first year as a driver he was given the oldest bus in Rutherford County; a 1976 International School Bus.
“It had a steel plate in the floor where it used to be manual and they converted it to automatic,” Henson said.
Henson drives routes in the morning and the afternoon. He is also a teacher at R-S Middle School and teaches driver’s education. He said between his personal vehicle, the bus and the drivers education car he has driven 2.2 million miles in his lifetime.
He takes his job seriously and knows it is a great responsibility.
“I am a perfectionist and I’ve got a photographic memory. Discipline, as far as in the classroom, I’ve never sent a kid to the office. And in 16 years of driving a bus I’ve only sent one or two off the bus,” Henson said. “People think the behavior on the buses is worse but it’s really no different than it has ever been.”
Some of the biggest changes to bus driving during Henson’s career have been the addition of navigation systems and radios that allow him to stay in constant communication with other drivers and the bus garage.
“It’s nice to know if you are having problems or if the bus was to break down that you can call. Then within five or 10 minutes one of the mechanics is there bringing you another bus or coming to fix it,” Henson said. “It’s very different from the isolation I had before.”
Henson said being a bus driver is ideal for him since he is such a perfectionist. He makes sure to arrive to pick up the students at the same time each day.
“I walk out the door at the same time every day. The way I look at it is, with these kids, especially in the winter, I can tell every single one of them within 30 seconds when I’m going to be there. They know when to be outside,” Henson said. “It works out well because I never have to wait on them and they never have to wait on me.”
Henson said his career has been without major incident, but he has reported accidents and a house fire that he saw during his morning route.
“The most memorable moments for me are different. I’m not a morning person but I look at it from the perspective that I get to watch the sunrise everyday. I think that’s cool,” Henson said. “I’m usually heading toward the east every day when it’s rising. It’s my thought time. It’s my devotional time in my head. It’s where I get started for the day, on that bus every morning.”
For him, the best part of the job is being the face of the school system.
“We are the first person and the last person these kids see. I want to make sure my bus is a safe place for these kids to be,” Henson said. “I want the parents to know and the kids to know when they get on my bus particularly, they are going to be okay. They aren’t going to be picked on, there aren’t going to be fights, they aren’t going to be in any danger during that 45 minutes to an hour and a half they are on there with me every day.”