Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

More than just the guy behind the wheel - Introducing Jake Patten, bus driver for Cook County Schools

Feb 11, 2019 05:50AM ● By Editor
Exclusive to Boreal Community Media - February 11, 2019

Any parent can relate to the fear of watching their little ones getting on the school bus for the first big day of school, hoping for a safe and uneventful bus ride to school for their child.  Meet Jake extraordinary man who views his role as a bus driver for Cook County Schools as much more than simply a job. 

Jake grew up at Okontoe up the Gunflint Trail, graduating from Cook County Schools in 1996.  He and his wife, Andrea, are firm believers in giving back to the community that they live in.  They have been foster parents for the past 3 ½ years. Andrea serves as a Youth Pastor for the Evangelical Free Church in Grand Marais.  When Jake is not driving bus, he works as a realtor for Red Pine Realty. 

How does the day begin for the driver who has one of the longest bus routes in Cook County?  Jake arrives at the bus garage at 5:30 a.m. and performs a daily pre-trip inspection of his bus to make sure the bus is mechanically sound.  Three bus drivers and a bus aide then ride up to Grand Portage on one bus, where the other two of them leave their buses there each night so that they aren’t driving three buses back and forth each day.  Jake picks up his first rider at 6:34 a.m. He has a total of 58 students on his route.

When Jake began his bus driving career 3 ½ years ago, he had to obtain a CDL license with a passenger endorsement in order to drive a school bus.  Cook County Schools helped him with this licensure. Jake also is trained in 1st Aid, CPR, and seizure response.

According to Jake, the best part of his job is “having a regular connection with kids in the community and developing the relationship with the families”.  He said that this gives him a composite picture of the community. He also loves greeting the kids each morning.  Even if they are grumpy and don’t say anything back, he still enjoys seeing and interacting with them. Jake smiled when he shared that one little girl sings “You are my Sunshine” to him every day, and that he sings along with her.  Jake also commented that the views of the sunrises and sunsets along is route are another great benefit of driving along the North Shore for a living.

Jake said that the hardest part of his job is initially not having that connection with the students, as “there is a fine line between being the authority figure yet still wanting them to know he is a safe person and that he truly cares about their well-being”. 

Jake would like to offer the following advice to motorists that encounter a school bus:

  • If you are approaching a bus that has yellow or red lights on – please stop quite a distance away.  If you don’t, the bus driver has a very uneasy feeling not knowing what you are going to do and will not let the kids off.  
  • Don’t be in a hurry.  You can wait. According to Jake, “These lights signify that there are little lives around and you need to stop, as these are someone’s children”.
  • Weather can be tense with blowing snow.  “Please leave your lights on so it’s easier to see you.  It makes things safer and above all, the safety of the children is of utmost importance”.
Jake carries an emergency radio so he is able to contact law enforcement or his supervisor, Tom Nelson, if there is any type of emergency.  He can notify law enforcement immediately if someone goes through a stop arm, giving police the location, license plate number, and vehicle description of the offender.

Jake hopes that more people in the community realize that they could really do well as a bus driver.  He said that “it’s a great way to maintain community relationships, work with a great group of people and earn a good wage for a part-time job”.  He added that being patient with the kids and with developing the relationships is an important trait that a driver needs, along with the fact that a driver needs to keep a level head in a variety of situations.