BY ANNA C. DOLAN
David Busse knows the name of every student who rides his bus.
“Hi, Cameron! How are you today?” he asked as students climbed aboard for the ride home from Heritage Elementary on Sept. 26.
He also knows something about each of them.
“Joe there loves to write books,” Busse said, as Joe proudly held up one of his recent stories.
Busse, a semi-retired dentist, is called “Dr. Busse” by many of his riders. He’s been a Cherry Creek Schools bus driver for just over a year, transporting students from Heritage Elementary and West Middle School morning and afternoon. He loves interacting with the kids and knows that he is often the first and last representative of Cherry Creek Schools that they see each day. He knows that their experience on the bus can set the tone for the school day or the evening at home.
“That’s very important,” Busse said. “We put on a big smile, ask them how they’re doing or how their day was?”
Busse is a great example of Workforce Excellence, one of three strategic priorities in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for maintaining educational excellence. He is the type of employee Cherry Creek Schools is investing in: those with the skill, will, capacity and knowledge to commit to a culture of continuous improvement.
Busse has developed an innovative way to build positive relationships and encourage positive behavior on his bus.
“My theory is this: You can use punitive means to try and influence behavior, or you can try to gain students’ attention and engagement by doing something fun,” Busse said. So at the beginning of the school year, he launched a peer mentoring program based on origami, the art of paper-folding. “Origami requires quite a bit of work in terms of folds and it helps develop the 3-dimensional, spatial faculties of the brain,” Busse explained.
In the short time it takes students to load the bus, he was able to teach some origami basics to older students, like fifth-graders Malak Louraoui and Cameron Row and fourth-grader Michael Park. Those students then share their knowledge with younger students during the ride to or from school.
“We make cubes and cranes and things like that,” Louraoui said. “They go, ‘Wow, that’s cool!’”
“Whenever I’m working with a kid, others ask me if I can help them with their origami,” Roe said. “They ask me how I do it and I show them. It makes the ride more fun.”
“It feels good, because you’re teaching other kids how to make things,” Louraoui added.
The program has created a positive atmosphere and helped students build friendships that extend beyond the bus and across grade levels.
“I have a really great mentee named Nick,” Park said. “When we meet in the hallway, we always greet each other.” Park, who’s an expert at solving Rubric’s Cube puzzles, also shares his Rubric’s Cubes with Nick and other students during the trips to and from school.
Heritage Elementary Principal Ryan Langdon is impressed by what Busse has accomplished with his riders during the relatively short time they’re together each day.
“What stands out in my mind is the opportunity for kids to have relationships with each other, for kids to have an activity and be engaged during a bus ride, which is often a very unstructured time. It’s wonderful to see the older kids taking responsibility for the younger ones, teaching them a few things and engaging them in conversation,” he said.
Student Michael Park summed it up this way: “Dr. Busse is really cool!”
The Cherry Creek School District is looking for more great people who care about kids to join its team of dedicated bus drivers. Pay was just increased by $1 an hour and paid training is provided. Get more information about becoming a CCSD bus driver or bus assistant here.
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