Of all the stories that Steve Hartman has covered "On the Road" this year — the one that's been shared the most by our viewers is the.
Dallas — You can see why someone might hate being a school bus driver — the early hours when the weather sours — the abundance of responsibility combined with the absence of eyes in the back of your head.
Nevertheless, as we first reported in May, Curtis Jenkins loves delivering these little ones to Lake Highlands Elementary in Dallas, Texas.
"He goes way beyond the outline responsibilities and duties of a bus driver. I mean, that bus is like a family," Emily said.
"These are my children," Curtis said. "These are my community. I love 'em all."
To establish community, he starts by giving everyone responsibility. It's an elaborate flowchart. Everyone working together to build a yellow bus utopia.
"I put time, effort, love and care — understanding each and every one of those kids." Curtis said.
To show his love and understanding, Curtis gives presents throughout the year — each one personally selected with that child in mind.
He gave one girl a T-shirt with a picture from a book she made. "I'm hoping this T-shirt inspires her to keep on writing books," he said.
Over the year he has bought these kids bikes, backpacks, handed out cards on birthdays and even turkey's at Thanksgiving. He has spent thousands out of his own pocket. And yet, if you ask the kids what they like most about Curtis — the gifts don't even come up.
"And he helps anyone in need," said sixth grader Ethan Ingle.
He said the bus ride is often the best part of his day.
"My mom got divorced when I was only 4," Ethan said. "He's the father that I always wanted. In some ways, I wish my dad could have been like that."
We make the mistake sometimes of thinking certain jobs are more important* than others. But Curtis Jenkins made his job important – and, in doing so, even created his own salary.
"That's the paycheck right there," Curtis said. "If I can get that, you can keep the money."
He sought no reward, but after our story first aired —the kindness came back to him, nonetheless —when an anonymous viewer reached out to school superintendent, Jeannie Stone, with a little thank you gift for Curtis.
"When you leave here today, you're going to be driving this brand new car!" Jeannie told him
In addition to the car, she also gave him a promotion. Curtis now teaches others how to have better student relationships.
For this old bus driver, 2019 proved to be quite a ride.