MEI bus driver Rick Falk is a 2022 Heroes in Education recipient. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

HERO IN EDUCATION: More than just a bus driver, Rick Falk is a ‘cornerstone’ at MEI Schools

Humble and self-effacing, Falk makes parents feel safer knowing he’s behind the wheel

The Abbotsford News is honoured to profile 2022 “Heroes in Education” from a long and amazing list of nominees sent to us by our readers. “Heroes in Education” is graciously sponsored by Sevenoaks Shopping Centre, University of the Fraser Valley, BE Power Equipment, Valley Laser Eye Centre and the City of Abbotsford.

He’s the first and last person many MEI students see each day who represents their school.

And for all who know bus driver Rick Falk, there is no better representative.

“The first contact that a school has with many students takes place the moment they step onto a bus,” said Vijay Manuel, Head of Schools for MEI. “The learning and development of our students begins from this first contact, and there isn’t a better role model than Rick Falk, who has served as a bus driver at MEI Schools over the past 14 years.

“Rick loves God, our school, his colleagues, and the students and families in his care, and it shows on a daily basis. Rick Falk is truly a Hero of Education at MEI Schools.”

High praise indeed, but something a very humble Falk would say comes from being part of a great team.

“The school has been very supportive of me,” Falk said. “You get to interact with the teachers, the students and I’ve really enjoyed the years I’ve spent here.”

For Falk’s nominator, manager of advancement and director of the school’s hockey academy Peter Hay, eschewing the spotlight is something the ultra-popular bus driver prefers.

“He’s a humble guy,” Hay said. “But everyday he goes above and beyond in supporting us. He never wants any recognition.”

Back when Falk first started with MEI, he drove the bus and worked the grounds as a facilities employee. Although he enjoyed wearing two hats, he gave up groundskeeping four or five years ago.

“I got too old to shovel snow and work in the rain,” he said with a laugh.

Watching students grow and mature from Grade 1 to graduation has been the most rewarding part of his job as a bus driver, Falk said. For many MEI parents, having Falk be their child’s driver gives them a level of security and comfort knowing he is behind the wheel.

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“Rick Falk is an amazing bus driver. Not only does he keep my kids safe, he also makes them feel welcomed and special on his bus,” said Corina, a bus route parent and teacher at MEI.. “For example, every year on their birthdays they get a personalized card with a Tim Hortons gift card in it. This is just one of the ways Rick Falk goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

And it’s not just the regular MEI students who benefit from Falk’s commitment.

“We host international students and they take the bus when they stay with us and it may be long term or short term. Either way, Rick has been great at welcoming them to the bus routine and to MEI,” said Ronda, a bus route parent. “He is also very attentive to learning who they over the short or long term they are riding on his route. We are grateful for him and his level of protection while taking care of the kids on his bus.”

Christine Green, assistant transportation manager at MEI, describes him as a “cornerstone” in their organization.

“I’ve watched children, students, colleagues, principals and managers approach Rick for advice on all kinds of topics, knowing that they will get a fair and honest shake from him, myself included,” she said. “One of the most unseen things Rick does without prompting, every day, is to stop and close the lower gates on his way out after his shift is over. This may seem insignificant, until he takes a day off, which of course he never does. He truly is so much more than a bus driver; he is our gatekeeper.”

Even at the age of 70, Falk isn’t considering slowing down any time soon.

“I’ll keep driving the bus as long as they’ll let me,” he said.

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