CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Over the past 23 years, Cheryl Whalen -- better known as Mrs. C to her students -- has become the face of Chesterfield County Schools Transportation Department.
She not only transports kids to school, but helps them learn valuable life skills along the ride.
“She’s the best bus driver in the world," exclaimed nine-year-old Winterpock student, Bayleigh.
Parents, like Erica Seamster, feel a little more comfortable when their kids are in Mrs. C’s care.
"Everyday, Nora would get off the bus, and we as parents were always so excited to hear the things they were doing, and it became very clear Mrs. C. wasn’t a normal bus driver," said Seamster. "She was going above and beyond.”
The beloved driver provides incentives to her students to read and write, offering them prizes when they succeed.
"If we read a book and write three sentences about that book, which gives her proof we read it on the bus, we will get a prize from the treasure bag," Bayleigh explained.
She also pairs young students up with older students as mentors to help them practice reading and other life skills, like how to tie their shoes.
"It makes the world of difference," said Seamster. "It makes kids comfortable riding the school bus and excited to go to school."
She already won a monthly award, but Tuesday morning at Winterpock Elementary, Mrs. C was named the winner of the campaign. The school and company surprised her with a $10,000 check.
"I’m so overwhelmed," Mrs. C. explained. "When you do things, you get rewarded. Not only money, but your heart, and it just makes you feel good."
But the cash and recognition aren’t what keep Mrs. C. behind the wheel.
"It makes me feel really good to see them learn," she added. "It makes me feel so much better that I have helped students."
While this dedicated woman has already impacted hundreds of students and parents, she has no plans to give up her bus keys any time soon.
"I wish she could be my bus driver for like ever," said Bayleigh.
Mrs. C. plans to use some of the cash to throw a party at her house for her students, complete with a bounce house and water slide to give back to the kids who make her love her job.