By Chris Bavender
All Debbie Taylor knew that May afternoon was that she needed to be at a staff meeting with the Carmel Middle School principal. But as she walked into the room, she started to realize things might not be as they seemed.
“I saw the transportation people, my family, and everyone had this huge smile on their faces, and I didn’t have a clue what was going on,” said Taylor, who has been with Carmel Clay Schools for 11 years. “I was thinking, ‘I need to check my mailbox at transportation, to fuel my bus, pre-trip it, and all the things that I needed to do before my bus route.’ And everybody kept smiling.”
She quickly found out why those smiles were so bright – the bus driver and food service employee had been named the 2017 Support Staff Employee of the Year for CCS. The staff meeting was a surprise ceremony to present her with the award.
“Debbie is incredibly dedicated, never missing a day of work,” Amy Beaven, CCS transportation supervisor, stated in a press release. “She is that positive, friendly face that starts the day for the many Carmel Elementary and Carmel High School students who ride her bus. Her positivity and genuine care is felt not only by the kids, but by the parents as well.”
Parents wrote glowing nomination letters describing Taylor as caring, kind and patient with every student she encounters.
“Thanks to Miss Debbie, my children have always had a positive experience on the school bus. She makes the bus not only a safe place, but a fun place—even giving out holiday gift bags and hosting an end of year pizza party at the park,” one parent wrote.
Taylor said she knows parents entrust their children to her.
“From the moment they step on the bus, I treat their kids as though they were mine,” she said. “I tell my kids on the bus that I want them to have fun, but I also want them to follow the rules; both can be done. When I’m working in the cafeteria, I joke with the kids in line and try to make sure they have a complete lunch. Sometimes they come up to the cashier stand with just chips and a drink. I ask them, ‘Where’s the rest of your lunch?’ I engage them in a conversation about what they are eating, and sometimes they actually go back and get a good lunch.”
Through the years she’s made a lot of memories, but a few stand out.
“The kids on the bus were discussing everybody’s last name. I said, ‘So, what’s my last name?’ They looked at me with a puzzled face and said, ‘Debbie,’ because they call me Miss Debbie,” she said. “And a little girl told me, ‘It’s my birthday this summer. I’ll be 7.’ I said, ‘Wow, you’re getting old.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Like a granny?’ My kids – I love them.”