April Wilson, a longtime Duneland Schools bus driver, is the 2023 Employee of the Year.
The honor—which comes with a $500 stipend—is sponsored by Ellis Electric Inc.
Wilson, a 1994 CHS graduate, has worked as a bus driver for the Duneland School Corporation (DSC) for 20 years. She joined DSC in 2003 as a substitute driver and in 2006 was hired as a full-time driver. In addition, Wilson has juggled several jobs outside of DSC, as a school bus driver for the Dunes Learning Center in Porter (2016-20) and as the head cook at Discovery Charter School (2010-19).
April recalls how much her life has changed since becoming a bus driver for the Duneland Schools. “My first bus was a stick-shift, and now my bus has heated seats!” she said. Over the years, Wilson has had the great pleasure of knowing as well as working with and for some extraordinary people, most of whom she calls friends. She drives the same bus route, which as it happens is to the same school she attended many years ago.
Building friendships with all of her families is an important aspect of her job. “April works hard to build strong relationships with her parents,” DSC Transportation Director Ben Armstrong said. “This job just comes so naturally to her and she makes it look so easy because, to her, it is second nature to care for people and her students.”
“I like to treat all my ‘bus babies’”—as she endearingly refers to them—“as my own,” Wilson said “I have attended many graduations, birthdays, talent shows, ball games, and unfortunately, a funeral over the years. I also have the joy of driving the children of my former students, which is very cool.”
Having five children of her own, Wilson realizes just how important it is for children to have kind, inspiring adult figures in their lives. “Being a bus driver we are the first and last face our children see each day,” she said. “I treat all of my students with respect and make sure to greet everyone by their names and with a smile and ask about their day. I remind them daily to be kind to each other and I challenge them to say something kind to someone as they might brighten someone else’s day.
Armstrong sees in Wilson a prime example of the Transportation Department’s core values: Safety, Teamwork, Attitude, and Responsibility. April has logged approximately 154,800 miles driven in her 20-year career: that is, roughly, six trips around Planet Earth. During her driving career, she has had no major accidents, which is an impressive safety record.
“The responsibilities of driving a school bus are many and April faithfully takes on this substantial responsibility every day,” Armstrong added. “She knows the importance of her job and performs it with ease. She is a highly valued member of the Transportation Department who is a motivator and well respected by her coworkers. April is not just a school bus driver. In essence, she is a conduit to her students. She is one of the unsung heroes who gets up, gets out, and passionately sets the stage for her students. April is a silent benefactor who makes a daily deposit into the lives of her students.”