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|Paynesville Press - June 26, 2002|
Driver recognized with statewide award
easy part of Bob Tschann's job as a special education van driver
for the Paynesville Public Schools is driving the van and picking
up or dropping off kids who can't ride a regular school bus for
physical or emotional reasons. A monkey could be trained to do
this part of his job, he said.
The enjoyable part of his job, what has kept him driving for 12 years, is getting to know the students he transports and helping them get ready for school, using humor and companionship.
For his efforts, Tschann was recently honored with the second-place award in the Minnesota Special Education Bus Driver and Transportation Assistant Awards Program.
"If I deserve any award, it's not because I go and pick the kids up for school," said Tschann. "From the very first day, I wanted to make sure they were ready for school."
While driving, Tschann uses humor, especially holding conversations with his coffee cup to get his students to laugh.
"He really likes the students that he has been involved with. He has a great sense of humor and jokes around with the kids that he transports. He has taken the time to get to know them, and it has been obvious to those of us who have been involved that the students really like Bob," said Jane Hjelle, one of the local special education teachers who nominated Tschann for the award.
"He has done a great job, and we are very glad that he was recognized for this," she added.
"He's very, very good at what he does," agreed Lew Storkamp, the school's building and grounds supervisor, who went to high school with Tschann, hired him as a driver a dozen years ago, and supervises him. "It takes a certain person. He gets along with them really well. He jokes with them. You may think they don't understand, but they do."
Through his driving, Tschann has found that he has learned much about special education students. Before he started working with them on a daily basis, he said he was the type of person who tended to feel sorry for Special Education kids. Now, having gotten to know them, he says they are great kids who have taught him about positive attitude. The kids, and their parents, despite all the pain and operations they may go through are still so cheerful and appreciative, he said. "It sometimes makes the problems we have seem insignificant," he explained.
Tschann typically transports three or four students per day to school. The van has room for one passenger and one wheelchair, so he must make multiple trips each morning.
While some riders are just temporary, as a result of an injury, for example, most ride with Tschann for a number of years, which increases the opportunity for them to make a connection. Frequently, Tschann has one-to-one opportunities to get to know the students he transports.
"You do start to understand them a lot," he said. "And they improve. The school has good results. I see them everyday. Year to year, I see them."
One thing that really makes Tschann feel good is when he gets invited to a graduation party or wedding reception for one of "his" kids, as he calls the students he transports, whether they ride with him for a few weeks or for years. "These people are important to me," he said.
Tschann started driving the special education bus 12 years ago, when Storkamp needed a driver. Storkamp and Tschann graduated from Paynesville High School together back in 1957.
Normally, special education van drivers do not last long, said Storkamp, but Tschann has. "I think he enjoys it," said Storkamp. "It sure ain't for the money because he only works a few hours a day."
Tschann isn't sure how long he will continue to drive but he does plan to drive again for the 2002-03 school year. "I've been going to stop for two years," he said, "but what's one more year."
"When you start getting awards," he warned, "you know you're getting to the end of your rope."
Tschann and his wife Luann have two grown children. He likes to fish, paint, and follow Paynesville's athletic teams.
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