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Transatlantic Trucker Buddy Connection

By on November 1, 2018

Teacher-Driver Visits Make World a Smaller Place

Although classroom visits by Trucker Buddy drivers are commonplace in the United States, many professional drivers don’t realize how truly international the Trucker Buddy International program actually is. This aspect of the Trucker Buddy program was highlighted in the September-October 2016 issue of RoadKing. During 2013, Linda and Bob Caffee, currently team expediters for Landstar Express America, were paired with Stéphanie Derrien-Guivarch, an English teacher at the Chateaubriand Middle School in Saint-Malo, France since 2010.

A historic, port city considered by many to be among the most beautiful in the world, Saint-Malo is located in Brittany along the coast of the English Channel in the northwestern part of France. Including the surrounding metropolitan area, the population is approximately 153,000. Stéphanie teaches English to 6th-9th grade students. Following the closing of another middle school in Saint-Malo, enrollment is up from 200 students in the four grades to 300 this year. The 6th graders have four one-hour classes each week, and the higher grades have three classroom hours each week. Typical class size is about 25 students.

In addition to reading and writing, classroom topics can involve mathematics, geography, social studies, history, art and other subjects. Sometimes, teachers of these other subjects get involved, adding extra value to the program. The Caffees have taken an active role in suggesting and developing projects and student assignments related to the above classes. All inbound and outbound communications flow through Stéphanie. It’s interesting to note that the parents of students who are not being taught by Stéphanie in a given year frequently ask about Bob and Linda.

How the Connection Began

Stéphanie wanted her students to understand the importance of learning the English language as a window to the world that could open many opportunities beyond their formal educations. She noted her students were fascinated by the popular History Channel show Ice Road Truckers. Browsing the Internet for other trucking related topics, she discovered the Trucker Buddy International organization. Stéphanie liked what she saw and applied in mid-July of 2013. With a new school year about to begin, she followed up at the end of August. A couple of days later, Linda and Bob were confirmed as her Trucker Buddy partners for the 2013-14 school year. They just happen to be TA-Petro 2014 Citizen Driver Honorees, and Linda is the current president of Trucker Buddy International.

The Trucker Buddy program was launched with 6th graders that first year, then expanded to 7th graders the next year and so on until all four grades were fully engaged with the program. Right from the start, the parents were involved and supportive. They quickly grasped the value. Seeing the potential of a pen-pal program, the school’s head mistress was also supportive. As for the students, they found it quite fascinating that professional truck drivers in America would take an interest in them and their studies.

Encouraging Student Aspirations

While reading, writing and speaking skills are the primary focus, a significant aspect of the Trucker Buddy experience is encouraging students to stretch imaginations, to dream, to think about what is possible, to set goals for achievement, perhaps even those thought to be impossible. Stéphanie has told Bob and Linda how communications with them have opened doors that were sealed and helped trigger a connection to emotions. Clearly in this transatlantic relationship, the value of the Trucker Buddy experience extends well beyond the classroom.

An excellent example of student engagement involved favorite recipes. Linda provided some of her recipes on video. The students reciprocated by preparing a recipe book with some of their favorites. They even shot home videos with detailed instructions. Many parents took an active role in overseeing preparation of favorite recipes and shooting videos for Bob and Linda.

Exchange Teachers

In a twist on international exchange student programs, Bob and Linda scheduled a 2016 visit to Saint-Malo, specifically to meet the students of Chateaubriand Middle School and their English teacher. When the students learned they were coming to France only to meet them and not to visit Paris or the Eiffel tower, they couldn’t believe it. That was unthinkable. The students felt valuable and very important. It was a trip to remember for the students, their parents, Stéphanie and her family, as well as Bob and Linda. The cultural close-ups were eye-opening for everyone. During their five-day stay, they participated in three one-day field trips with different classes and enjoyed an evening reception and open house with students and parents.

Fast forward to July 2018 and the tables were turned. Stéphanie Derrien-Guivarch, her husband, Fred, and their two children, Valentine and Axel, were about to embark on a dream vacation. “Looking back to the time of Bob and Linda’s 2016 departure, emotions were intense, and some tears flowed,” said Stéphanie. “Fred could see how blue I felt. He did too. We didn’t realize how close we had become. We really missed Bob and Linda. Shortly after, Fred announced, ‘We’ll take a road trip to visit Bob and Linda in the summer of 2018.’ We’ve been planning and saving since then.”

“One thing I can tell you,” said Stéphanie, “working with Bob and Linda has been a highlight of my teaching career. I can’t think of anything else that would top that. The Trucker Buddy International program has been invaluable. It helps me on a daily basis throughout the school year. I couldn’t think of anyone better than Bob and Linda to be part of this program. Starting with emails, postcards and letters to visiting each other’s homes, they’ve helped make the world a smaller place for my students and my family.”

“When Bob and I started with Trucker Buddy International many years ago, who would have guessed it would lead to an overseas trip for us, and then hosting a teacher’s family from France?” said Linda. “During the year, I enjoy our interactions with Stéphanie and her students, as we watch their command of the English language improve. This program has greatly enriched our lives in so many ways.”

About Warren Eulgen

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