Diane Giuliani, a Plainville, CT native, has been driving Bus #12 in her community for 40 years. When you first meet her, you can’t help but be drawn in by her warmth and huge smile. As soon as you strike up a conversation with her, you quickly find she’s not only vivacious and charismatic but incredibly compassionate, especially about being a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and school bus driver. This year she is celebrating four decades of safely transporting her community’s children to and from school, and DATTCO is incredibly fortunate to have her on its team.
You could say bussing is in Diane’s genes. Her father drove a CT Transit bus for 46 years. And, her husband was also a school bus driver for Plainville for ten years before transferring to driving a van for the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). In addition to being a school bus driver, Diane is also a caretaker for her five-year-old great-granddaughter, Ivy, who rides Bus #12 to and from Linden Street School. But, before being a student on this bus, Ivy came to work in her carseat with Diane and was lovingly nicknamed the “bus baby” by Diane’s co-workers. Ivy has grown up on a school bus and knows the rules inside and out, enforcing them in her gentle way. But the family connection doesn’t end there; Diane has two-year-old twin great-grandkids who live on her route and will eventually ride Grandma’s bus as well!
Diane began her school bussing career in 1981. Her children were in school full time, and she had flexibility in her schedule, so she answered a help-wanted ad in the local paper for school bus drivers. The job turned out to have the best perks for a working mom, offering the same schedule as her children, with weekends and holidays off.
Even though Diane didn’t pass her CDL test the first time, her trainer reassured her that she would be a fantastic driver and encouraged her to try again. So, on her second try, she passed with 100%! Forty years later, she’s still going strong and has one of the best safety records at the yard!
When you ask Diane what it’s like driving a big yellow bus, she explains that she loves driving her bus for the challenge it poses; she feels powerful behind the wheel. She’s also quick to admit that she drives her bus better than her car. While a lot has changed with the way buses are built over the decades (when she started in the 80’s school bus were standard shift, and there was no power steering), one thing has remained the same – the children. She feels lucky to have honed the skills over the years to create lasting bonds with the students she transports and their parents.
A fixture in this community, from time to time, Diane bumps into students she drove decades ago, and now she’s driving many of their kids – second generations! She has had parents comment on how punctual she is, claiming they can set their watch to the time she’ll drive by their house each morning; “every morning I know it’s Diane headed down the street, and yup right on time,” said one mother, and Linden Street School employee, who’s college-aged children once rode on Bus #12.
But the thing that Diane is most proud of, and still chokes her up all these years later, is when parents write her notes telling her what a great job she’s doing and that they are happy she is their kids’ driver. “That makes me feel really good. It’s an honor they think so highly of me! It makes me tear up when I think about it,” Diane shared.
Her dedication doesn’t end when she gets off her bus. With her wealth of knowledge and experience, she is an invaluable resource for new drivers. She speaks to them about her experiences on the road and gives them tips on sharpening skills like checking zones and mirrors, turning corners, and being vigilant of other drivers. When asked what her number one piece of advice is for a new driver to be successful, Diane said, “to always stay calm, don’t let the kids (or aggressive drivers) get to you and cause you to do or say something you will regret. Take a deep breath before reacting; focus on just getting the kids to school and home safely.”
Diane has so much passion for this job, and she oozes it with a giant smile when you talk to her about her driving career. “I love my job; I really do!” she exclaimed. And when asked how much longer she will keep driving, she answers, “As long as I am able to do it, I am going to keep on doing it. DATTCO has been very good to me.”
“It’s truly amazing that the community of Plainville has had 40 straight years in which they have not had to worry about students on bus #12 getting to and from school safely,” added Tim Rebstad, Branch Manager for the Plainville school bus yard. “Every morning, I wake up knowing the students of bus #12 will be greeted with a smile from Diane.”