AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Curtis Jenkins doesn’t want the notoriety.
The north Texas bus driver just wanted to help the kids he drove to and from school each day. He ended up reshaping the culture of Richardson ISD.
The district hired Jenkins nearly a decade ago when he was in his mid-thirties and had his commercial driver’s license.
He learned each kid’s name and bought them personalized presents, and occasionally surprised them with turkey dinners.
Jenkins said he simply wanted to help the kids learn how to be better people.
“My passion, really, is all about making a change,” he said.
Speaking to educators at the Texas Association of School Administrators conference in Austin, Jenkins detailed his bus community. Each student chose a role, like police officer or judge, which helped them learn about accountability.
Bus rides turned into an extra lesson in the day, a “pre-test” to warm up the kids before school.
“He has a skill set that I can’t pay to train anybody on, and that’s how to love people with a gift and a way that, you know, is priceless,” Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone said.
Stone promoted Jenkins to become the district’s relationship specialist and he’s now responsible for changing the culture for all 39,000 students in the district. The concepts he crafted on the bus, translated to a white board in Stone’s office, which became the foundation for more than a dozen different programs that the district has implemented.
“I can go out and teach what I have inside of me to the whole district,” Jenkins said.
As the pair gave a presentation to other educators on Tuesday, they emphasized a focus on inclusivity of auxiliary staff.
“Every employee has talents and gifts which you didn’t even hire them for that they’d be happy to give you,” Jenkins said.
“I wasn’t getting paid to do what I did, I did it because I saw a need for it,” he continued. “And that made the culture of which the bus got better and which now administrators all around the district is wanting to do the same thing.”
“I want every person to feel that they are the most important person in our school district because they have a valuable job of working with kids every day,” Stone said.
Attendees of the training said they were inspired to implement similar concepts in their districts when they return home.
Hereford ISD Superintendent Sheri Blankenship said she had already spoken to her district’s transportation director to work on a similar program.
“When I get back, we can go ahead and move forward with those conversations about how can we use something like that in our district,” Blankenship said.
“The whole educational process is far greater than just those administrators and teachers in the classroom,” Blankenship said. “It really involves everyone, whether it’s the cafeteria, the custodian, the bus driver in this case, and how it really takes everyone working together and creating that environment for student learning, and how he transformed that on a bus, and made that kind of a classroom.”
Jenkins said he has worked on several different programs that are in various stages in the district, including luncheons for other bus drivers and training sessions on how include auxiliary staff in district-wide activities.
Organizers said more than 6,000 people are attending the Texas Association of School Administrators midwinter conference this year. It features nearly 250 workshop sessions focusing on school safety, college and career readiness, and instructional leadership.