Daisy Simmons never knows what the day holds when she climbs behind the wheel of the school bus she has driven for the past 29 years, but she said her love of children, faith in God and patient attitude sustain her.
"I'm not getting any older, I'm getting better. I enjoy my work, and I thank God for letting me be out there for as long as I've been," Simmons said.
The 59-year-old has been a school bus driver for Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 since 1971. She is also the person who exemplifies patience for the month of November as part of Orangeburg County's "Community of Character" initiative.
"Patience is the key word. You got to have patience. Sometimes you have to work with some (children) that are not as good as the others, but I always have a way of bringing them in to me," said Simmons, who also transports special education students with whom she shares a close bond.
"My special children are my angels. I treat them as if they're my children, and I just love them," she said.
The mother of five and grandmother of seven said she starts the day at 6 a.m. with a good attitude which she says the children respect. The children don't need as much disciplinary action when she begins the day in a positive, patient manner, Simmons said.
"You've got to have a good attitude, and you've got to be intelligent. To earn respect from the children, you have to give respect … and start out with what you can keep up with," she said.
The Orangeburg native said while she's not employed to be the children's playmate, she respects them as individuals.
"Children have feelings, too, regardless of what kind of children you deal with. I just ask the Lord to let me stay with them as long as possible. My children are my life," Simmons said. "I'm not out there for the money; I'm dedicated to what I'm doing. I … work with good people, and I get very good support from my supervisors."
She said bags of candy are sometimes used to supplement her patient attitude, but she said genuinely caring for the students makes her daily duties easier to manage.
Simmons has had only two minor accidents in her bus-driving career. She said she is just as dedicated to keeping her young charges safe as they are well-behaved.
"Once the kids get on (the bus), they just know that everything is all right. I just thank God for these little hands and the sight that I have," Simmons said. "I just thank God for staying with me."