Meet Donald Sanders, 2015 Giraffe Award Winner

This is the first in a series of profiles on the 2015 Giraffe Award winners. Each Tuesday leading up to the Champions for Children Event, we will feature a profile on a 2015 Giraffe Award Winner and showcase how they “stick out their neck” for Maine children, youth and families. This week, we are pleased to introduce you to Donald Sanders, SAD 75 Bus Driver.

Don Sanders works as a school bus driver for MSAD 75, bringing Topsham students to and from school. Last October, Sanders saw an opportunity and took it, embracing all the challenges that came with a new endeavor to make the daily commute a little more meaningful for his students.

Sanders developed a literacy and mentoring program for the students on his bus route, pairing older students with younger ones for morning and afternoon reading sessions. Using books from his personal collection, students on Sanders’ bus practiced reading skills and formed relationships with students outside their peer groups and social circles on the bus. The program transformed an otherwise rowdy bus ride into a quiet and productive social and cognitive learning experience.

“When I look in the mirror and see the kids reading, laughing and talking to each other, it brings a smile to my face and I feel good knowing that something this simple can be so beneficial,” said Sanders reflecting upon the program.

Developing the necessary reading skills at a young age is imperative to a student’s academic success. Between 3rd and 4th grade, reading transitions from just an academic subject to learning tool, essential in mastering other subject matters.

Sanders’ bus buddy reading program took off. Before long, the students had read his books several times over and were hungry for more books. Eventually, he partnered with Williams-Cone Elementary School’s Principal and Topsham Public Library to acquire additional reading materials.

For Sanders, the Giraffe Award shows him just how important the bus buddy program is. Sanders believes “the award could encourage all librarians and school bus drivers within the state to implement their own programs within their districts.”

Don Sanders will be awarded the 2015 “Out of the Box” Giraffe Award for his innovative Bus Book Bag Program on October 27, 2015 at the Champions for Children Event. Sanders truly exemplifies what it means to be a Giraffe Award Winner. He identified an opportunity to make a difference and went above and beyond his job description.

Read his profile in the Portland Press Herald and learn more about the Bus Book Bag Program. Don’t forget to join us for the 2015 Champions for Children Event. Check out the rest of the 2015 Giraffe Award Winners here.

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