CARUTHERS, Calif. (KFSN) -- Salena Torres has been a school bus driver with the Southwest Transportation Agency for more than 18 years and over 232,000 miles without a crash.
Monday morning, for the first time she got awarded for her service. She was recognized as the North Region School Bus Driver of the Year, by the California Highway Patrol and The California Department of Education.
"If I was a parent and my kids were being driven by Mrs. Torres I would be very happy that they were in good hands," said Warren Stanley, California Highway Patrol Commissioner.
It's not just Torres' driving record that made her stand out, but the way she handles her job, especially during intense situations.
It was last November where she had to fight off a homeless man from attempting to hijack her bus full of children.
"The man was going up and down the row telling the kids if they wanted to go see Jesus," she said. "He was at San Gabriel Mission and he was coming for us he was taking them there."
She called for backup and confronted the man.
"He grabbed me by the collar, he held on and I looked at him, like don't go there with me, you do not want to do this," said Torres. "When I got up out of my seat he backed up."
After about four minutes, the police arrived and removed the man. Torres said it was her motherly instincts that kicked in. Whenever a student steps on to her bus they become her children.
"You are the main thing they see in the morning before they go to school and probably the last thing they see before supper," she said.
Torres also received a surprise award, the Commissioners Medal of distinction. It is given to people who make great contributions to the state.
Local woman recognized as Northern California's school bus driver of the year
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