Bernard Smith

Bernard Smith, known as Mr. B, drives a special needs bus for the St. Lucie School District in the north end of the county. JOHN BIONDO PHOTO


Bernard Smith likes being in the driver’s seat. Mr. “B”, as he is known to many Fort Pierce children, has been a school bus driver for almost 20 years. His 6-foot-tall stature may be intimidating to some, but his broad smile makes anyone feel comfortable in his presence.

And it is that smile that has helped Smith earned the trust of many troubled youth whose family lives are less than desirable. He has seen children in a variety of stages of development, attitudes and upheaval.

“When a child comes back saying, ‘Thank you for listening to me — you don’t know how much it means to me to have someone listen to my problems,’ then I know I have accomplished something good in their life,” Smith said.

These days he drives a bus for special needs students for the St. Lucie County School District. Some of his riders are wheelchair-bound or have difficulty walking. He is assisted by a bus aide in getting everyone on and off the bus safely.

His bus is equipped with a wheelchair lift, mandatory seat belts and vests to firmly secure his passengers. Mr. “B” is keenly aware his job carries great responsibility and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mona Webb, a full-time bus aide who has known Smith for 15 years, works with him, two hours a day transporting students during midday, which is an extra trip between the morning and afternoon and not part of a regular run.

“Bernard is funny and the children love him,” Webb said. “They find their happy place.”

A typical day begins before sunrise. His morning routine is no different than most students who rise before the crack of dawn: going to meet the bus. Then, it’s off on a route to four schools in the north end of the county. Smith deals with rude drivers and the like, all with the maneuvering skills of a seasoned driver. He has earned multiple safety awards and has a perfect attendance record.

When he was growing up, his mother taught him to respect people, especially other children.

“Treat them the way you want to be treated,” she would tell me. I am mindful of trying to be respectful to everyone,” he added.

Name: Bernard Smith
Age: 53
Family: Wife, Sharon; son Bernard, Jr. and daughter Simone
Background: Raised in Bluffton, S.C., moved Fort Pierce in 1984. Since then, has been involved with Fort Pierce Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Police Athletic League and Frontline for Kids.
What Inspires Me?: Being a role model to children and knowing that I’ve done something good.
What Most People Don’t Know About Me: Sad movies make me cry.