Curt Rogers, teacher turned bus driver 1

Curt Rogers, Hempfield High School coach and Hempfield elementary school teacher, poses next to a bus on Sept. 28, 2021. Rogers recently got his bus driver's license after hearing about this year's school bus driver shortage. 

THE ISSUE

As LNP | LancasterOnline’s Aniya Thomas reported in Monday’s edition,school bus service providers across the state and country have struggled to fill open positions in the midst of the pandemic.” At Hempfield High School, spring track and field and fall cross country head coach Curt Rogers and bowling head coach Tom Degnan have trained and have been certified to become school bus drivers. 

Talk about going the extra mile.

Across Lancaster County, teachers and school coaches have been going to extraordinary lengths to make sure their students get the closest thing possible to a normal school experience during this very abnormal time. They have masked up in the classroom and in the gym and on the performance stage to keep their students and colleagues healthy. They have adapted classroom and extracurricular activities to reduce COVID-19 transmission. They have purchased hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes using money out of their own pockets. 

As LNP | LancasterOnline’s Alex Geli reported in February, they have taught remotely from home when quarantined and used their own prep periods to fill in for absent colleagues. They have weathered criticism from people who don’t understand what it’s like to teach in periods of societal turmoil. Many of them got vaccinated enthusiastically because they knew vaccination and masking were key to keeping schools open. They have rolled with every twist and turn thrown at them by this pandemic and so many have done it with extraordinary grace, good humor and compassion for their students. 

And, like Hempfield’s Rogers and Degnan, they have pitched in however and wherever necessary. We thank them all.

Rogers, who is an elementary school teacher as well as high school coach, was interviewed by LNP | LancasterOnline’s Thomas about his route to becoming a school bus driver. Getting behind the wheel of one of those yellow behemoths wasn’t easy, though like the good sport he clearly is, he said he was “up for the adventure.”

If only more of us could view challenges as if they were adventures.

To obtain a commercial driver’s license, Rogers said he had to undergo “hours of classroom training and hours of behind-the-wheel training. I needed to lift the hood of the bus and identify parts of the engine and parts of the drivetrain and things like that.” He said it “was a little bit more than I thought going in, but in the end, it was kind of cool and fun to go through the training.”

We imagine coaches view the idea of training — any kind of training — more enthusiastically than some of us. This seems evident in how Rogers spoke of coaching his student-athletes.

Every time “we have a race there’s the opportunity for somebody to run a faster time, or to compete in a different way, or just improve,” he told Thomas. “There’s nothing like that, to watch people that are training and working hard improve when they race. Driving to the meet is just another aspect of taking the team on a trip. So, I’m seeing it from a different perspective now. I get to look in the mirror as we’re driving along and just take it all in.”

The interview contains other such gems; we encourage you to read it. We particularly enjoyed this statement from Rogers: “To the kids, you do what you need to do to get the job done without being too … over the top.”

Perhaps it’s because we’ve stood on the sidelines of countless high school sporting events and marching band performances, but this line particularly resonated with us. We’ve witnessed over-the-top coaches and over-the-top parents. We’ve cringed as student-athletes were berated for making mistakes on the playing field — berated sometimes by their overly invested parents. (An aside: For some of us, the “silent Sunday” games of our youth soccer players were our favorites — they were the days when parents were forbidden to make noise on the sidelines and in the bleachers. It was bliss to be able to hear the interactions of the young athletes, as they played without the running commentary of their parents.)

We’ve also been grateful for coaches and teachers who, without “being too … over the top,” encouraged children to do their very best.

According to Education Week, a feared exodus of teachers and school administrators spurred by the stresses of this 19-month pandemic hasn’t yet materialized. The substitute teacher shortage is real, but so far, nationwide, staff teachers and school leaders haven’t dashed toward the exits in huge numbers. Rand Corp. surveyed district superintendents in June and early July; they estimated that only 6% of their principals and teachers retired or resigned at the end of the 2020-21 school year, a percentage in keeping with pre-pandemic years.

But, as Education Week noted, Rand also warned that “the reasons why teachers said they were thinking about leaving — including stress — should still worry district leaders as the pandemic continues.”

This should worry us all. Teaching and coaching are difficult occupations. We should laud those willing to take on — and persevere in — the essential work of educating our children. And we should be especially grateful for those who go the extra mile in all kinds of ways.

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