Lauran Rantz said being a District U46 bus driver provides an opportunity not only for work, but also has driven her to imagine ways of turning her job into a career.
"I originally just thought of it as a temporary position and about two weeks in, I realized that I love driving a bus and that it's something I wanted to do long term," she said.
At a recent meeting, the Elgin-area District U46 Board of Education recognized the contributions of the transportation department to segue into the start of National School Bus Safety Week, which began Monday.
Andy Martin, director of transportation, said National School Bus Safety Week serves as a good way to provide an overview of what his department does all year long, but it also adds an emphasis to safety.
Martin said he applauds the district in its efforts to bring on board drivers who are all serious about adhering to safety protocols.
To this point, Martin said, Rantz serves as one of many good examples of the type of workers sought by District U46.
"She clearly understands the direction and what the motive is for this department," he said.
Rantz has received nine safety awards in her time as an employee for District U46.
Rantz said if there's one safety measure she'd like for people to be more cognizant of, it's the use of seatbelts on buses.
"One of things I can think of is the seatbelts on the buses, because I know there's a lot of controversy about seatbelts on the bus," she said. "With the small buses, we have seatbelts. On the large buses, we don't have seat belts. The way the big buses are designed they're built with higher backs, so it's kind of like an egg carton… If god forbid there was an accident, those kids are protected by the seats they're sitting in."
Rantz has served the needs of the community as a bus driver for nine years. The District U46 employee said she enjoys coming to work each day.
"You learn a lot from kids, they're always saying something clever," she said. "They don't filter themselves, they say what they feel, they see. It's a lot of fun doing the everyday, hearing what different kids have to say about doing different things."
Rantz has served as a special-needs driver in the past, and is now designated as a standby driver, who fills in when backup is needed.
"Doing the standby driving gave me a different view of the district," she said. "Because I wasn't doing the same thing everyday, I learned different areas of Hanover Park, Streamwood, Elgin, South Elgin. I really like having that extra knowledge."
One day, Rantz may take on a wheelchair route and the next day she's driving high school students.
"You get different kids everyday, so you get to meet a lot more kids," she said.
Rantz refuses to see her role merely as a bus driver. The job can play a part in setting the bar for student success, she said.
"We're a lot of times the first face that they see in the morning and we're the last face they see before they go home," Rantz said. "It's important that we interact with them in a positive way because we can affect their mood for the day. Or, if they're having a bad morning, we can possibly change their mood around depending on how we interact with them."
Rantz said it is her hope that one day she can return to covering special needs routes.