Laura Hinojosa has a passion for driving buses. Her affinity paid off recently with the Transportation Employee of the Year award from Ector County ISD.

Hinojosa is going on her 14th year with the district. She has worked as a driver and special education teacher’s aide.

The driver specialist said driving the large yellow vehicles and students are her passion.

“I like the interaction with kids. I like to help them … I’m not just a driver, you get to communicate with kids and I like that,” Hinojosa said.

This was the year she came back to driving because last year they stopped in March.

“We didn’t get to drive and I had just come back in January so for two months I drove and then they stopped us so this was my complete year, but of course the pandemic made a big difference. The buses were practically empty. It was different, but … I enjoyed it as much as before,” she said.

Drivers still have to sanitize the buses and keep them clean. Masks are optional for youngsters, but some still wear them.

Hinojosa said she was kind of reluctant to receive the award because she had just returned.

“… I knew somebody else that … deserved it more than me because there’s other great drivers here. It does feel good. I just enjoy being a bus driver,” she added.

Sepharine Bugayong, driver supervisor with ECISD, said Hinojosa is a very dedicated driver specialist.

“She comes to work with a smile on her face, eager to help others. Our department is very blessed to have her onboard. She does such a great job representing our department,” Bugayong said in an email.

Hinojosa added that she’ll drive whenever she’s needed and actually enjoys driving a bus more than a vehicle.

“I park the bus better than my own car. Seriously, I do. I like driving the bus because the mirrors help you a lot. … You can see the tires …” which you can’t in a car, she said.

And you’re higher up so you can see the big picture.

She added that the staff is wonderful at the transportation department.

“I love it. I think I get along with everybody. I say hi to everybody and I like to interact with everybody. That’s just the way I am everywhere I go, but the staff is great. I like them,” Hinojosa said.

Her twin sister, Anna Hinojosa, is a longtime bus aide and would tell Laura stories. When she saw other women driving buses, she thought if they could do it so could she.

“I thought it looked fun,” Hinojosa said.

The days are split so she works in the morning and afternoon. When the students are in school, she can take care of errands. There are some annoyances such as people driving in front of the buses. Being large, it takes longer to stop the vehicles.

Raised in Rolla, Kan., she graduated early from Odessa High School in 1995. She has a daughter who is about to turn 18.

“Wherever they need me, I’ll be there especially now. We’re still needing drivers,” she said.

She likes to transport students of all ages.

“The quiet ones are the high school (students). They’re already calm. Junior high, now that’s a different story and the little ones, of course, they’re just loud. I enjoy all of them,” Hinojosa said.

ECISD Employee of the Year Awards

Employees of the Year (presentations on May 25, 2021):

  • Counselor of the Year: Daniel Dorethy, Bowie Middle School.
  • Para-Professional of the Year: Sandra Pilger, Bowie Middle School.
  • Custodian of the Year: Susana Magallanes, Dowling Elementary.
  • Police Department Employee of the Year: Leonard Hendon.
  • Professional of the Year: Brandon Reyes, Director of School Nutrition.
  • Transportation Employee of the Year: Laura Hinojosa.
  • Maintenance Employee of the Year: Henry Kleck.
  • School Nutrition Employee of the Year: Vuthy Thong.

The following employees received Employee of the Year Awards earlier in May:

  • Elementary Principal of the Year: Sherry Palmer, Carver Early Childhood Center.
  • Secondary Principal of the Year: Anthony Garcia, Wilson and Young Middle School.
  • Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year: Zealia Jenkins, Edward K Downing Elementary.
  • Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year: Megan Watts, Permian High School.
  • Elementary Teacher of the Year: Sarah Hawkins, Travis Elementary.
  • Secondary Teacher of the Year: Cheryl Cunningham, Advances Technical Center.
  • Nurse of the Year: Alan Pitt, Ector Middle School.