By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
Gladys Delgadillo is one of about 200 Killeen Independent School District bus drivers who are back on the road today.
Delgadillo, an Ecuador native who came to the United States in 1974, has taken kids to and from school for 20 years, the last five of them as a driver for special-needs students. She sits behind the wheel of bus No. 600, "my baby," she said Friday while navigating her route through Killeen and Harker Heights.
Delgadillo is assisted by her friend and bus monitor, Isabel Scott. Each of the 52 special-needs bus routes in the district is staffed by a driver and monitor.
Delgadillo's day starts at 4:30 a.m. She gets to her bus at the district's transportation hub near Killeen High School at 5:15 a.m. She picks up her first student at 6:10 a.m.
Delgadillo and Scott made stops along their route Friday to notify parents of pickup times. They spent the days before practicing the route to work out timing, traffic and other travel issues.
Special-needs routes are the only ones in the district where students are picked up at their homes. Others gather at designated bus stops.
Delgadillo is passionate about her job, saying it was a good way to be around children even though hers are grown. She knows the students on her route well, some of them for five years or more. Friday's stops included big waves and smiles to and from parents, grandparents and students on the route.
"I remember when he was this big," Delgadillo said while holding her hand out over the aisle after spotting a student during a stop Friday.
Transporting special-needs students can be challenging, Delgadillo and Scott said. Delgadillo has endured violent outbursts from riders. There have been times she has wanted to walk away from the job, but she said, "That's what you're here (for) - for them."
"Sometimes it's hard to deal with them," she said later, "but then (I) see the happy faces."
The job is about love and patience for the kids, and if a driver doesn't have that … Delgadillo's voice trailed off and she shook her head.
Delgadillo said she's had a good group in the last few years and had a prediction.
"We have a good year this year," she said.
Delgadillo missed her route over the summer, and after a month or two will tell her husband, "I'm missing my babies."