Judson ISD prides itself with having high-quality teachers, a sense of family, and individualized opportunities for their students. At Judson ISD, district employees go above and beyond for the students.

“We strive to provide students with individualized opportunities while creating a personal connection,” Natalie Guzman, from Judson ISD Communications, said. “We try to create a sense of family for our students, parents, administrators, educators, bus drivers and all of our Judson ISD Family.”

Judson ISD makes a point to recognize the quality of its employees, and this year, Jeanette Smallwood was named the Bus Assistant of the year. She rides one of their special needs buses and has worked for Judson ISD since 2017. She spent 25 years in a banking career before making the decision to take a position with the district.

“It’s been rewarding to be a bus assistant,” Smallwood said. “I’ve always had a desire for making a difference in children’s lives and being a teacher but never went that route. This job feels like I’m doing that, like I am making a difference.”

Kenneth Johnson, Judson ISD’s Director of Transportation, said Smallwood’s peers nominated her for this annual award because they noticed her going out of her way to help her students.

Smallwood said there is a senior boy who would wear the same T-shirt and shorts every day. When there was a cold snap in the winter, Smallwood said he showed up in the same clothes.

“I asked him where his coat was and he said he didn’t have one,” Smallwood said. “So that’s when I thought, ‘Well, that’s just not going to work.’ I got him some jeans, a shirt, a pair of gloves, a coat and a hat.”

The thing she remembers most is that he asked her how to put gloves on, because the student had never owned a pair before.

“It was a nice surprise to be recognized by my peers—it was a great honor,” Smallwood said. “I’ve received awards in athletics and my career, but it has a special touch when your peers nominate you. And you’re not expecting it.”

Staff like Smallwood are important in helping students feel safe and comfortable from the moment that they step foot on the bus to go to school until they get back home, Guzman said.

“I think it’s very important for our parents to know that’s what we try to do at Judson ISD,” Guzman said. “We’re a family and we do our best to focus on what is the best for our kids.”

Johnson said Smallwood’s award and behavior did not go unnoticed by the district.

“Our staff going above and beyond for our students is something we recognize in our main board meetings,” Johnson said. “We presented Ms. Smallwood in front of the whole school board meeting and took a couple photos. It was a great event.”

In total, Judson ISD has 65 bus assistants and 90 bus routes between special needs, elementary, middle and high school routes. Since September, Johnson said he has seen the number of students riding the bus increase, and that the number of routes has decreased, so there are more students on each bus.

“The year off without having social relationships has really affected [the students] in their behavior towards each other,” Johnson said. “So, it’s a matter of getting back into the groove as we get more kids on the bus.”

For those who are looking to make an impact at Judson ISD, Guzman said there are positions available inside and outside of the classroom.

“We would love to have the next Ms. Smallwood,” Guzman said.

For more information about Judson ISD, visit the district’s website here.

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