Just in time for the holidays, members of the Spring ISD Board of Trustees paid a surprise visit on Thursday to the district’s Transportation Center to present the December 2022 Employee Excellence Award to bus driver Natasha Miller, who like other recent winners was selected for embodying the qualities in the district’s Leadership Definition.
Specifically, Miller was recognized for actions she took during an incident near the beginning of the semester, when her courageous and cool-headed response helped ensure the safety of the students on her bus during a potentially dangerous encounter. As Board of Trustees President Justine Durant explained during the presentation, Miller’s student-focused actions exemplified the commitment of district drivers to the safety of their students and the Spring ISD community.
“She more than rose to the occasion,” Durant told the crowd gathered in the main hallway at the Transportation Center. “She put herself in potential harm and successfully deescalated the situation. She kept her cool despite finding herself in the middle of a very tense moment.”
The Spring ISD Police Department and Police Chief Ken Culbreath had previously nominated Miller to be recognized with a Spring ISD Above and Beyond the Call of Duty (ABCD) award, presented during the October board meeting. Miller said she was surprised to see the trustees again so soon, but Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa explained that it was important to the board and administrators to honor Miller on her home turf at the Transportation Center.
“We wanted to make sure we also recognized you here, in front of your whole team,” Hinojosa said, “because we appreciate you, and we’re grateful for you.”
Trustee Durant described the vital role bus drivers play both for the district and in the lives of students, who often count on them as familiar, friendly faces when traveling to and from school each morning and afternoon.
“You are the first person our students see and the last person they see every day,” Durant said. “You start off their day, and you wrap up how it ends. We value you and we are just so excited to be here, to celebrate you for this award. Congratulations!”
Miller has spent 13 years driving in Spring ISD, and 23 years in all driving school buses. She is also a district parent, with a daughter at Bammel Middle School, but her love for children of all ages was developed in her own home growing up, where Miller learned from watching her mother in her role as a foster parent to other young people.
“We had a foster home, so I’ve always been connected with children,” Miller said. “My mom had 76 foster kids over the period of maybe 20 years, and I’ve always worked with them. And even the kids now, I’ve watched them grow up from when I first started driving, and now when they see me outside of work, it’s like, ‘I remember you, you were my bus driver!’ So that’s a good connection.”
Inspired by her mom’s example, Miller has often gone out of her way during her years as a driver to support her students and their families – especially those going through tough times – whether helping connect students with needed support and basic care essentials when they’ve come to her for help, or providing families in need with food at the holidays.
“I love all of my kids,” Miller said. “I’m going to protect all of them, or at least I’m going to try to.”
She said the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic were especially hard because she didn’t get the chance to see her students, to check in with them day-to-day and make sure they were doing all right.
“I couldn’t see them, I couldn’t talk to them, I couldn’t do anything,” Miller said. “But it’s better now.”
Trustees awarded Miller with a framed certificate and a special Spring ISD recognition pin. Each Employee Excellence Award winner also receives a check for $100, made possible by the support of the Spring ISD Education Foundation. Miller was nominated for the Employee Excellence Award by a fellow staff member through the online submission form, where any employee, parent, or community member can enter a nomination for an outstanding district employee.
To learn more, or to nominate a Spring ISD employee, visit www.springisd.org/employee-recognition.