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January 10, 2019

Faces of Fauquier: Bus driver “also teaching” riders

Photo/Cassandra Brown
After 31 years as a Fairfax County Public Schools supervisor, Robert “Bobby” Jenkins started driving a Fauquier bus in 2010.
You have to have patience and, if you can’t get along with kids, this is not your cup of tea. You’re the principal, the psychologist, the secretary, the nurse.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Driving a 45-foot-long bright yellow vehicle comes naturally to him.

Robert “Bobby” Jenkins started at the wheel of a Fauquier County school bus nine years ago because of his family’s history.

“My mother and father drove school buses” for Fairfax County, Mr. Jenkins said. “My mother for 36 years, my dad for 38 years. I had aunts and a cousin who drove, too.”

Navigating narrow roads around New Baltimore and Warrenton in a huge vehicle would prove quite challenging for some, but Mr. Jenkins doesn’t seem to mind.

“To me it’s no different, because I have a 35-foot camper that I pull behind my truck,” he said. “The only difference is when you make a turn you have to go out further into the road. You can’t make a sharp turn, so you don’t tear a sign down. And, you have 77 kids on the bus.”

His bus rarely runs at that capacity, with three to a seat. Usually, he transports about 56 Kettle Run High School students and 40 to 50 Brumfield Elementary pupils on separate daily runs.

He starts picking up students at 6:03 a.m.

Mr. Jenkins estimates he drives about 130 miles a day, including the extra mid-day trip, shuttling Kettle Run governor’s school students to the Lord Fairfax Community College campus just south of Warrenton.

The job involves lots of multitasking — watching students, other drivers and the road at the same time.

“You have to watch out for deer, dogs, and cows sometimes are out on (Route) 605. Sometimes it’s so foggy you can barely see. Cars come down with no headlights on. High school kids fly down 605.”

He often encounters drivers “not paying attention. I’ve seen a lady putting eye makeup on when she was driving with her knees.”

Turning the bus around in a cul-de-sac with snow piled high also proves challenging.

“You have a lot of responsibility . . . . You have to have patience and, if you can’t get along with kids, this is not your cup of tea,” he said. “You’re the principal, the psychologist, the secretary, the nurse . . . . You’re out there by yourself. At least in the school, you have all of that.”

After a 31-year career as a maintenance supervisor in Fairfax County Public Schools, Mr. Jenkins signed on as a bus driver in Fauquier to have an easier commute.

“I like working with kids. Anything you do in the school system, you are also teaching children.”

Mr. Jenkins drives the school bus about 31 hours a week, occasionally including field trips or athletic events on weekends if time allows.

“I have great kids” on the bus, he said. “You see them growing up. I would say 90 percent of the kids talk to me.”

Routinely, he gives certificates to elementary students who exhibit good behavior and follow all the bus rules.

“It shows them that I’m appreciative of what they’re doing for me,” he said. To earn certificates, students must be “on time (at the bus stop), sitting in their seat, not yelling or screaming and being courteous to other students.”

Mr. Jenkins has attended many fifth-grade and high school graduations to support the students who ride his bus, sometimes even giving them a congratulatory card.

He serves on the school system’s snow team to help test the road conditions around 3 a.m. when inclement weather strikes.

“In the north, it could be snowing like crazy, and the south gets nothing,” he said of the big county’s diverse conditions.

He also actively participates in the Fauquier Education Association, organizing meetings to discuss transportation issues with other drivers and school administrators.

• Age
61

• Home
Bealeton

• Work
Bus driver, Fauquier County Public Schools, 2010 to present; janitor, American Legion Post 180, Vienna, 2008-10; maintenance worker and supervisor at about 30 schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, 1977 to 2008.

• Why do you do the job?
I like the kids. My mom said it’s in your blood. I like the hours. They are great because you get the middle of the day off. The flexibility. You can still do errands and doctor appointments in the daytime.

• Family
Mother, Roma; brother, Richard; daughters, Morgan and Leigha.

• Education
Northern Virginia Community College, 1976-77; Hayfield Secondary School, Alexandria, 1976. (“Now it’s like a college campus, it’s so huge.”)

• Civic and/or church involvement
Fauquier Education Association member; Warrenton Baptist Church member and sound assistant.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
Since 2001. Before that I lived in Manassas for 12 years.

• Why do you live here?
I moved out here because it was quiet. But now we are getting bigger by housing, not by businesses. Until you get businesses in here, we are never going to get the money the county needs.

• How do you describe this county?
I think it’s fabulous. Everybody gets along. My neighborhood is quiet. I like it out here because you have a little bit of country and a little bit of city. But it’s growing too big. Before we know it it’s going to be little Fairfax or Prince William, and we don’t have the schools for that.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
Nothing.

• What do you do for fun?
I used to bowl, but now that’s closed. I used to be a soccer coach from 2002 to 2014 with the Fauquier County Soccer Club.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
I used to take my kids over to Hugo’s to go skating, but it’s not there now. Country Cookin’.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I think it’s going to be the next Fairfax County. It’s going to be too large. It’s sad when somebody dies and the kids sell a farm.

• Favorite TV show?
“Last Man Standing.”

• Favorite movie?
“Caddyshack.”

• Favorite book?
Anything sports-related. I’m not much on reading, but I read the newspaper.

• Favorite vacation spot?
On a cruise to Puerto Rico. I’ve been twice.

• Favorite food?
Lasagna. I don’t know how to cook it, so I buy Stouffer’s.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
To listen. I had a supervisor in Fairfax, and he told me when you become a supervisor you have to listen because you’re not always right. Remember where you came from.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My ex-boss, Bob Sisson, at Fairfax County Public Schools, because he taught me everything I know about supervising. I applied for 51 jobs as a custodian. Everybody said I was too young, but he gave me a chance.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I would get out of debt and take another cruise anywhere in the Caribbean or a 21-day cruise to Alaska.

Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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Stacie Griffin · January 11, 2019 at 12:39 pm
Thank you Fauquier Now for this lovely article and for showcasing the heroes in our community. Thank you Mr. Jenkins for your dedication to the children and to our schools.
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