For Canyons District bus driver Jeff Wingad, waking before dawn each morning to greet students at the bus stop isn’t a job — it’s a calling.
The 72-year-old signed up to drive buses after a long and successful career in engineering, because he wanted to stay busy and make a difference in the lives of children. Like so many of Canyons District’s fleet of more than 200 drivers, he found in the occupation, a new passion and sense of purpose.
“They contribute to me as much as I contribute to them,” Wingad says of the hundreds of students he has carried on his bus routes over the years. “The rapport is just great.”
April 26, 2022 is School Bus Driver Appreciation Day, and we’re saluting the transportation professionals who shoulder the weighty responsibility of getting students to and from school safely each day.
It’s a straightforward, but important, job — and rarely easy. CSD’s trained drivers cover thousands of miles each year, waking as early at 4 a.m. in the morning to navigate sometimes wintry roads. They are the first District employees to greet students in the morning and the last to say farewell in the afternoon when students can be feeling a bit wiggly after a full day of learning.
Upon boarding Wingad’s bus, don’t be surprised if you hear a welcome message from “Captain Jeff” on the flight deck of Canyons Airlines Flight No. 1271. Keeping the peace is a matter of safety for Wingad who has come up with some pretty creative ways to keep busy minds entertained and engaged.
“He’s a very forward thinker,” said Canyons Transportation Director Jeremy Wardle. “With his engineering and varied life experience, even as a hot air balloon pilot, Jeff brings a lot of outside the box ideas.”
Wingad enjoys helping to “instill a mind of inquiry” in students by asking questions that get them thinking. It’s a diversion, to be sure, but also a fun way to reinforce math, science, and reading.
He might ask why, if the Earth is spinning so fast, we can’t feel it. Maybe he’ll challenge students to do a miles-per-hour calculation, or write a short poem about makes them happy. Or, if the weather is nice, he might invite them to join him in a rendition of Willie Nelson’s “Blue Skies.”
“Some of the fun things he does on his bus just tell me that Jeff cares deeply about the kids, and it’s not just getting them from A to B, it’s doing something while taking them from A to B,” Wardle said.