January 18, 2016 @ 8:30 AM

On Saturday January 16, 2016 over 40 school bus safety trainers came together for a day of learning and fun to attend SKILLSFEST: A School Bus Trainers Event held near Syracuse, NY at the Maplewood Extended Stay and Suites. The event was hosted by Roxanne Bocyck, Safety Trainer, President, and CEO of Back To School, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to the education and training of school transportation staff, children, and the public to improve school bus safety and save lives.

The goal of the workshop was to help school bus trainers learn ways to improve their training skills and meet other school bus safety trainers from all over NYS.

Participants included veteran classroom and behind-the-wheel trainers as well as people who were just starting out as trainers. There were a mix of supervisors, dispatchers, managers, safety officers, bus drivers, mechanics, and trainer retirees! All were eager to learn ways to keep their skills fresh.

The day started with a challenge for the group to think "outside the bus" when it comes to training. NYSED Master Instructor Judy Clarke entered the room dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz dancing to the song, "We're off to see the wizard…. The wonderful wizard of Oz…" and the audience laughed as she skipped to the front of the room with her ruby slippers and braided pony tails. She even had a basket with her stuffed animal Toto! Her message was clear, when it comes to getting your training message across you need to leave your ego at the door.

"As I was putting together a presentation for a group of school transportation staff I started to think about the characteristics of drivers … how they need a heart, courage, and use their brain to make important decisions on a daily basis," Judy said with a smile, "So I started researching the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and found many connections to school bus safety. For example, the familiar film was released in 1939, that same year Frank Cyr, father of the yellow school bus, organized a National Conference of State Transportation Officials and bus manufactures to establish the color of all school buses is to be 'National School Bus Chrome'."

Judy used her props to engage the audience and after her presentation everyone knew that Frank Cyr was born in the year 1900, the same year L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz book was first published.

Other presenters for the day included NYSED Master Instructor's and NYS 19-A Certified Examiners Ted Finlayson-Schueler and Jim Ellis. Both are well known in the school bus industry as pioneers in school bus safety. Ted was the founder of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI) and Jim is credited with creating the "Universal Safe Crossing Signal" used by all school bus drivers in NYS.  In addition, both have developed numerous state and national curricula for pupil transportation safety.

Ted shared with the group ways to improve their computer skills and do more with PowerPoint while Jim started a conversation about current challenges in training. For example, transportation staff is often asked to wear numerous hats and this can lead to transportation supervisors managing from behind-the-wheel.  In some districts, the transportation supervisor may be from a different department (such as Building & Grounds) and may not be fully connected with the importance of school bus safety trainers.

  "Trainers are an important part of school bus safety and we need to make more time for training," Jim explained as he shared his many years of school bus safety knowledge with the group.

Diana Wolgemuth from Dale Carnegie Training of CNY talked about ways to better connect with adult learners whether speaking one-on-one or to a group. She shared the importance of planning and creating a positive first impression to help motivate your students to action. Her presentation concluded with the give-away of Dale Carnegies book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

During the lunch hour everyone had a chance to visit information tables and ask questions to learn more about National Associations such as Toastmasters and ATD (Association for Talent and Development), Operation Lifesaver, NYS Department of Transportation, health and financial wellness and Public Safety.

One of the highlights of the day was learning how to incorporate technologies into our trainings. Christy Rohmer, manager of education services for the New York State Education and Research Network (NYSERNet) and previous Microsoft Trainer for New Horizons Learning Centers had the audience playing along to interactive online games created from Kahoot and Quizizz.com.

Christy demonstrated these technology games by having the audience use their Smartphone to connect to the online quiz and answer pre-determined questions that appeared on the screen of their Smartphone! After answering the questions the live results of all the answers appeared on the screen.

Other technology tools they learned about included EdPuzzle, which takes already existing videos from approved online sites (or you can upload your own) to create interactive lessons students can utilize on any computerized device with internet access.

The day concluded with the opportunity for trainers to network and learn from each other in a session called Table Topics; in small groups, participants introduced themselves to each other and then chose an index card with a topic/question for discussion such as, "talk about a time you were challenged as a trainer" or "name 5 characteristics of a good trainer." After 10 minutes the groups were switched-up and the process began again.

Overall, evaluations gave SKILLSFEST: A School Bus Safety Trainers Event a big thumbs up! Comments included:

"Great ideas and really good presenters, I made a "to do" list for future training."

"The workshop was excellent, guest speakers excellent, I loved Dorothy!"

"I think everything was very helpful especially presentation skills and interaction techniques."

"I had a wonderful experience and plan to attend again."

To keep everyone connected we started a Private Facebook Group for Safety Trainers. Click here https://www.facebook.com/groups/460122637505146/   to join or friend Roxanne Bocyck on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010101370793 and I will add you.

School bus safety is one of our Nation's highest priorities and Back To School, Inc. needs your help to educate and offer trainings to school transportation staff, children, and the public to improve school bus safety and save lives. Consider making a tax deductible donation today. Visit backtoschoolinc.org.

Thanks to all for an AWESOME day!


Roxanne Bocyck

NYSED Master Instructor Class of 2016

Safety Trainer, CDL Permit Prep Instructor, President and CEO

Back To School, Inc.