Helen Peterson leads students back onto the bus after an evacuation drill

Glenwood Heights students learn bus safety from one of the best

As the bus arrives at Glenwood Heights Primary School, fourth graders Kendall Reiners and Ravneet Dhaliwal spring into action. Walking with a sense of purpose to the front of the bus that is packed with kindergarten through fourth grade students, these girls are on a mission. As soon as the bus door swings open, Kendall and Ravneet lead their peers off the bus and down the sidewalk a safe distance, where they all line up and wait patiently and quietly for help to arrive.

Thankfully this scenario was just a drill, and the kids on driver Helen Peterson’s Route 87 bus passed with flying colors. This week in Battle Ground Public Schools, thousands of students and dozens of drivers participated in a variety of bus safety and evacuation drills. Students practiced what to do in the event of an earthquake, got an overview of the emergency tools like fire extinguishers and first aid kits that are carried on buses, learned how to stop the bus using the emergency pull brake if the driver becomes incapacitated, and practiced how to call for help on the radio before exiting the bus through the front doors.

“If something bad happens, we need to know how to help and not goof around,” Kendall said. Ravneet shook her head in agreement before adding “Even if we’re scared, we need to remember to help other people and make sure there’s no pushing when we’re all getting off the bus.”

Helen Peterson has been driving for Cascade Student Transportation (Battle Ground Public Schools’ transportation services provider) for more than 16 years. In her experience, there’s no more effective method of teaching students the basics of bus safety than to teach them when they’re young and reinforce expected behaviors with kindness and positive feedback.

Bus driver Helen Peterson leads students through an earthquake safety drill“Kids respond really well when you give them a sense of ownership and responsibility,” Peterson said. “Teaching kids to be respectful and recognizing them when they do the right thing makes them feel important. It makes them proud when they hear, ‘You’re doing a great job,’ after they have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them.”

Each week, Peterson recognizes the five students who best demonstrated the expected behaviors while riding the bus over the course of the previous week with a BRAVO ticket that can be exchanged for a small reward or extra privilege. It’s part of Battle Ground Public Schools’ Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS program. The method has been implemented at all district schools in support of BGPS’ focus on social-emotional learning. With PBIS, staff teach behavioral expectations to students just as they would any core subject, and reinforce those expectations with specific acknowledgement systems (like the BRAVO tickets).

“Student safety is a top priority for Battle Ground Public Schools,” said Tom Adams, the district’s director of student services. “Getting kids to and from school us a huge part of that. We want to emphasize to students and their families that the bus is an extension of the classroom, and it takes everyone working together to keep things running smoothly and safely.”

Peterson inducted into prestigious ‘Safety Wall of Fame’

In late October, Peterson was selected for induction to Student Transportation, Inc.’s “Safety Wall of Fame.” The recognition is reserved for truly outstanding individuals, both at work and in their communities.

Hundreds of employees were nominated by local transportation managers from all across the United States and Canada. Nominees are held to the highest criteria of safety within their role along with extraordinary character. The fifteen inductees into this year’s Safety Wall of Fame will be recognized during a special ceremony in the spring with members of the STI senior leadership teams in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Now in its sixth year, the Student Transportation, Inc.’s Safety Wall of Fame continues to be an incredible opportunity to recognize those among us who are truly outstanding individuals,” said Shelly Hall, STI’s Vice President of Safety. “They’re the ones who arrive first and leave last; the ones mentoring new members of the team to help ensure they succeed; the ones actively engaged with their communities.They take pride in their jobs, follow safety best practices, and shine as leaders amongst their team.”


icon 9716 NE 134th Street,
Vancouver, WA 98662

iconP.O. Box 200
Battle Ground, WA 98604

icon(360) 885-5250