My Turn: Jackie Shupe

Jackie Shupe is a bus driver for students with special needs in Washington County. She is a member of Washington County Educational Support Personnel.

For the last 11 years I have been a bus driver for students with special needs. I first worked in Frederick County for six years, took a break, then started again in November 2007 in Washington County. Fifteen years later, I still love it! I’m a union building rep for transportation, and I have guided coworkers to the union to protect their jobs. Working with our UniServ rep, I also have been trying to get work experience step increases for a coworker and myself.

As a mom I was always active in my children’s classroom as a jack-of-all-trades. I’m a little artistic, and I can sew, build small projects, and fix things so I could always pitch in on all kinds of projects or events as a class parent, team mom, or sports coach. Being present for kids (mine or their class­mates) and letting them know someone is there for them is a joy for me and being a member of the school commu­nity has always made me happy.

It’s amazing how education support professionals make an impact on students, and how they make an impact on you. I ran into one of my students who graduated years ago at the grocery store recently. When she was in high school, I watched as her friends, clothing, and attitude seemed to decline. She knew what I was seeing and knew I cared. At the grocery store, she told me about the difference I made in her life and thanked me for it.

I have a student with autism who doesn’t really talk. We have slowly become friends. One day he got off the bus, turned around, and said, “Bye Miss Jackie.” My heart almost burst.

Another student who is having a difficult time in school at first kept his back to me and didn’t interact. Now when he gets off the bus in the afternoon, he turns to make sure I see him wave goodbye to me and I smile and wave back. I know his home life is tough and that my smile and daily presence make a difference to him. It’s the best when a student comes out of their shell or enters the bus in the morning excited to tell you about their weekend, and another jumps on the bus in the afternoon excited to show you their new artwork.

That’s what makes my heart smile. Our students make it all worth it.

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