OSHAWA, Ont. — Teacher Sarah Marmara wasn’t sure what to expect when she signed up for the Trucker Buddy program for her 2006-07 class. By the end of the year, she was quoted in the school publication with this testimonial: “I would highly recommend this program to any teacher, as it has been and continues to be an inspirational awakening for my class, myself, as well as our Trucker Buddy Ray.”
Trucker Buddy Ray is Ray White has been a company driver with Liberty Linehaul of Ayr, Ont. since 2000. He lives in Kitchener, Ont. and is matched with Marmara’s 20 Grade 4 students at Adelaide McLaughlin Public School in Oshawa, Ont.
White became a volunteer with Trucker Buddy at the suggestion of his employer at Liberty.
“We have been involved with this program over the years with various drivers,” said Brian Taylor, president of Liberty. “We wanted to stay involved so Teresa Barclay looked through our employee list and picked Ray White. What a great choice that has turned out to be. Ray was certainly very interested in volunteering, and he has given of his time freely. Ray has put a lot of thought into his interaction with these children. He has worked closely with the teacher and added some real value to their educational experience. Liberty Linehaul is very fortunate to have quality people like Ray.”
The fourth graders track White’s travels throughout Canada and the US on the class map, which makes learning geography fun. White includes trivia questions in his e-mails and all of the students participate in researching the answers.
“Ray is an amazingly special person. He has been a part of our class from pretty much the beginning of the year and was an instant friend to each and every one of my students,” said Marmara. Through White’s frequent e-mails, he “recounts his week’s travels in such detail that we often feel like we are right there beside him.”
“It is evident just how important their education is to Ray,” Marmara added. “He sends them tonnes of pictures of his travels, educational pamphlets and magazines, which they love, posters, and items such as a cotton plant from Memphis and a tumbleweed plant from Wyoming for them to see and touch. Ray has created such a fun and dynamic way for my students to learn.”
When White was able to visit the class with his wife, he also made sure to address important topics such as safety and the importance of accepting each other for who they are. The children were able to tour the truck – and of course pull the air horn – and the couple treated the children to pizza and drinks, stuffed animals and Trucker Buddy t-shirts.
“Ray continues to make this an unbelievable experience for both my students and myself,” Marmara said. “There are not enough words to thank him for everything he has done for my class.”
White is among some 3,500 other professional drivers who share their time with elementary classes throughout the world. The only criteria to be a Trucker Buddy is to be a professional truck driver with a CDL who is willing to send a postcard each week to a class in grades two through eight. Drivers and teachers can find out more about the program by visiting www.truckerbuddy.org or calling 1-800-MY-BUDDY.
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