Helen Cottongim has been involved in the Kentucky public school system as a bus driver and trainer since 1972 and throughout her years has seen great students pass through her school bus doors, but also students who find thems...
- Encourage This Hero!
- Hero's Backstory
Helen Cottongim has been involved in the Kentucky public school system as a bus driver and trainer since 1972 and throughout her years has seen great students pass through her school bus doors, but also students who find themselves at the forefront of peer abuse through bullying tactics. Cottongim was the recipient of the 2010 NEA ESP of the Year Award and now finds herself training future school bus drivers not only on the rules of the road, but also how to handle bullying situations.
“Back when we started driving school buses, we didn’t know what bullying was. We just saw it as teasing between students,” according to Cottongim.
According to Cottongim, the school bus is one of the most prone places for bullying to occur because the leader of the area has his or her eyes mainly fixed on the road. This gives students the opportunity to tease or physically abuse other students.
Cottongim remembers one student, David, a 12-year-old special needs student back in the 1970’s. Students refused to let David sit down so one day Cottongim took matters into her own hands. She pulled the bus over and spoke to David and told him that he should not have to deal with the abuse.
”Anyone of us could be impaired tomorrow, so we have to be responsible for our actions today.”
She then told the students to either leave an open seat for David or scoot over to give him a seat. The next day, three students volunteered to give David a seat and the abuse ceased.
Cottongim sees self-esteem as a major factor in why children decide to bully others.
“Confident children don’t have to bully,” she said. “Children bully to have power over someone or something, possibly because they are bullied at home.”
Cottongim’s advice for other school employees are to pay attention to children’s body language and attitudes as they arrive for the day.
“You can see it if you learn to read children. Once you read them you can separate the bullies from the bullied to keep the classroom or school bus an non-abusive atmosphere.”
Words of Encouragement
Logged in as