Special-needs school bus driver retiring after 32 years in Superior
She's caring, outgoing and opinionated, and she has made a career out of giving students a lift -- physically as well as emotionally. When Lee Ann Keogan retires June 12, the special-needs bus driver for the Superior School District will be misse...
She's caring, outgoing and opinionated, and she has made a career out of giving students a lift -- physically as well as emotionally.
When Lee Ann Keogan retires June 12, the special-needs bus driver for the Superior School District will be missed.
"My son's been on her bus since he was three years old," said Mary Jo Manion. "He's 20 now."
For 17 years, she has put her trust in Keogan to transport her son, Sean, safely.
"She's been like a mother to him," Manion said.
For 32 years -- 35 if you include her time as a substitute -- Keogan has driven school buses for the district, 28 of them behind the wheel of the special-needs bus.
It takes a certain person to drive one of the district's three special-needs routes, said Tom Geisler, transportation director for the Superior School District.
"They typically have a special rapport with the kids," he said. "They know their wants and needs."
The drivers work with children of all age levels and the full gamut of special needs, from autism and cerebral palsy to hearing impairment and behavior issues.
"There's time you can be strict and certain times you can't," said Barb Sorenson, a fellow special-needs driver.
Keogan spends all day on the bus with her aide, Chris Backlund. From 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., they travel throughout Superior making stops at five different schools as well as other sites, including the Challenge Center and Head Start centers.
"I'm all over town," Keogan said.
As they bus students around, the two discuss traffic and talk with students.
"She's a great, genuine person," Backlund said. "She has a great rapport with families."
And with the students.
Sometimes people shy away from special-education students because they don't know what's acceptable and what's not, Sorenson said. Keogan breaks those barriers down with kindness, humor and affection.
When the bus stops at the Challenge Center, former students gather around to visit with Keogan. The bus driver gets Christmas cards from families of young adults who once rode her bus. One current student ends each bus ride by telling Keogan, "Love ya, babe."
Their feelings are returned, with interest.
"I love the kids," Keogan said. "These kids, they're all special."
Next week, Geisler will present Keogan with her very own retirement newsletter. Keogan is looking forward to taking up fishing and pursuing the hobbies she's put on hold, but it is a bittersweet time.
"It's going to be very, very hard to walk away on the 12th," she said.