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GPS bus drivers devoted to Gilbert students and families

Gilbert GOLD - Celebrating the best of GPS!

Sabrina Heaney and Rita Nelson stand by a Gilbert Public Schools bus in Gilbert, Arizona.

Early risers who are hard at work before the sun comes up. 

Sabrina Heaney is one of the amazing bus drivers at Gilbert Public Schools. She’s worked with the district for more than seven years.

“It’s entertaining. Every day is a new day,” Heaney said. 

She began her career with GPS working as a bus monitor supporting drivers on their daily routes. She never considered driving a bus until a trainer convinced her that she was capable. Since then, she’s never looked back. 

Sabrina Heaney standing by a Gilbert Public Schools bus in Gilbert, Arizona. Heaney is now transporting students of all ages, including those with special needs. She finds joy in watching all of her students grow up.

“The transformation is amazing, and working in the same school district where you live is even better. I get to see these students in the grocery store or at the mall, and they’re just kind of hanging out. I love to see their expressions when they see their bus driver,” Heaney said.

While she was hesitant at first to start driving a bus, Heaney now relies on her motherly instinct. She takes the time to connect with students and their families. She uses music to help brighten her students’ day, and she’s there to be a listening ear in their time of need.

“We are all raising these kids basically together. What they see reflects on them every day,” Heaney said.

The job also allows Heaney to be close to her own children. Her eldest daughter graduated from the district last year, and her youngest daughter began her freshman year at Campo Verde High School just a few weeks ago. Heaney believes working as a GPS bus driver keeps her connected to her children’s academic needs. 

Rita Nelson also began working as a bus driver to be on the same schedule as her children, but her work continued long after they left the district. Nelson is in her 36th year as a GPS bus driver.

“I got to take my kids on field trips. I got to meet and have a more personal relationship with principals and teachers,” Nelson said.

Rita Nelson standing by a Gilbert Public Schools bus in Gilbert, Arizona.

It was Nelson’s love of children that kept her going even after her kids graduated. Her connection extended to families, where she’s gone on to develop close friendships with some of her former students’ parents.

“Some of my best friends I met at bus stops, and I ride horses with them now,” Nelson said.

When it comes to working with other GPS bus drivers, both Heaney and Nelson agreed they are part of a supportive community where you can feel comfortable asking for help.

“We’re all very close. We back each other up quite a bit. It doesn’t matter if you are a big bus driver, special education driver, a monitor, or a van driver,” Heaney said.

If you are not an experienced school bus driver, Gilbert Public Schools provides extensive training and the opportunity to earn a Commercial Driver’s License. Benefits also include a flexible work schedule with holidays and school breaks off. For those interested in applying to become a GPS bus driver, positions are available now

Written by Kailey Latham, Photos by Jonason Pauley