Students at schools in Farragut call her Miss Patty, the lady who drives the big yellow school bus.
Patty Braden, a retiree who followed her daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons to Tennessee from California, decided two years ago that she wanted to return to work. Her daughter suggested becoming a school bus driver.
“I thought, ‘Could I drive a school bus?’ Well, I knew I love kids,” she said. “I interviewed, got the job, went to school, and here I am. I love it!”
She especially loves connecting with different age groups and getting to know the names of all 60+ kids each year. She tells them “Happy Birthday” and decorates the bus with holiday decorations. Students sing songs together and share stories on the PA system.
“We have a diverse group of children,” Braden said. “Last year, we learned to count to ten in Chinese, Polish, French, Russian, and Spanish. We just have fun!”
As much fun as she and her passengers have each day, she stresses safety for a tragic reason. Braden lost a young family member due to a car failing to follow school bus laws.
Morgan was crossing the street to get on a bus that was stopped with flashing lights and an extended stop sign. An oncoming car sped past the bus and struck her.
It is for this reason Braden, like so many others, emphasizes the importance of safety, especially during National School Bus Safety Week.
In her bus, she ensures cars from all directions are at a complete stop before opening the doors to let students off.
“I’m probably a little extra cautious when my kids are getting on and off the bus,” Braden said. “We all have busy lives, but people in vehicles have to stop.”
In addition to advocating for school bus safety, she also encourages more people to become bus drivers. Drivers have hours of free time between runs, days off when students are off, and work with amazing students each day.
“This is giving back to the kids of our futures. We need drivers just like the schools need aids,” Braden said. “Come do a ride-along on a bus to see if you’d like it. We’ll show you what we do. It’s not that bad; it’s actually that good!”