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Best driver in North America

From left, Dawn LeMaster, bus driver, and Charlotte Anker embrace. Photo by L. Farrell. (click for larger version)
October 31, 2012 - "It turned out to be a really good year, and we had fun, didn't we?" Dawn LeMaster asked Charlotte Anker.

Lemaster and Anker were chatting out in the hall after being recognized before a standing-room only assembly at the Oct. 24 Lake Orion School Board meeting. Lemaster was just awarded the grand prize in a national Children's Choice School Bus Driver of the Year contest.

Out of 800 students competing, Anker received first place for her essay nominating Lemaster.

Included in Lemaster's grand prize award was a $1,000 gift card. For her efforts, Anker won a $1,000 education savings bond and a laptop computer. Both also received jackets and lunch boxes courtesy of Thomas Built Buses, the company that sponsored the competition.

In answer to the age-old question, Charlotte said the wheels on the bus do go 'round and 'round —"very often." Correcting this reporter, Charlotte said Lemaster is not just the best bus driver in the country, "she's the best in all of North America!"

In 16 years of service, Lemaster has seen her share of cute and sweet kids, but Charlotte is in a class by herself. Charlotte read her winning essay aloud; her expression of gratitude for Lemaster touched everyone in attendance. "I've known a few [sweet kids], but she tops them." Lemaster said.

Lemaster has a different route this school year and doesn't drive Charlotte to school anymore, but said she's happy with the new assignment because she's got "a new set of kids to make a difference for."

Charlotte wrote the essay after school let out last summer. In the award-winning essay, she expressed her appreciation for Lemaster's concern for her passengers and for the educational programs the veteran chauffeur brings to the bus.

Once, Charlotte relayed in her essay, she had walked the wrong way after she got off the bus. Lemaster spotted the youngster's mother a short while later and stopped the bus to tell the worried mother which way the young Charlotte had ventured. "If Mrs. Dawn hadn't come back, my Mom would have thought something happened to the bus," Charlotte wrote.

Going above and beyond is normal operating procedures for Lemaster, and if the packed hall at the award ceremony was any indication, she is beloved in the district.

Anker was very excited about her essay award, but not about the secrecy she had to endure.

"I was told a couple of weeks ago but I wasn't able to tell anyone," the 10-year old Carpenter Elementary student said.

"I think after this long she'd be a crabby bus driver," Charlotte concluded, "but she loves her job and loves us kids."

For her part, the humble Lemaster said; "It's nice to know I made a difference."

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