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, 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," said principal Emily Gruninger.
"These are my children," Curtis said. "These are my community. I love 'em all."
To establish community, he starts by giving everyone responsibility.
Curtis gave some examples. "This is one of the police officers," he said.
It's an elaborate flowchart.
"She's an administrative assistant to the president," he pointed out.
She's administrative assistant to the president? "Yea," he said.
Everyone working together to build a yellow bus utopia.
We're going to care about each other and we're going to love everybody, right?" Curtis asked the children.
"I put time, effort, love and care — understanding each and every one of those kids," he said.
To show his love and understanding, Curtis gives presents throughout the year — each one personally selected with that child in mind.
He gave this 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 turkeys 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.
The kids said stuff like "He really cares about us" and "he's really kind."
"And he helps anyone in need," said Ethan Ingle, a fifth grader. He said the bus ride is often the best part of his day.
"My mom got divorced when I was only 4. He's the father that I always wanted. In some ways, I wish my dad could have been like that," Ethan said.
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. If I can get that, you can keep the money," Curtis said.