A school bus driver was honored recently for his dedication to the children in the district he serves.

Fred Jackson, a bus driver for the Wylie Independent School District, lost his home and all his possessions shortly before the fall semester began. His house was one of nine homes in Balch Springs that were destroyed in a fire last July after a spark from a commercial mower ignited the dry grass in a field behind the neighborhood. Seventeen other homes were also damaged in the blaze, The Dallas Express reported.

Despite the tragedy, Jackson opted to return to work for the sake of the school children, even though he was offered the option of taking time off to rebuild his life after the fire.

“I love it. You know, I love the kids and then to see their smiling faces coming to the bus,” Jackson told NBC 5 in an interview.

Jackson was selected as the winner of the Wylie Way Award, given each month to a person within the Wylie ISD community that exemplifies the Wylie Way. Individuals in the community nominate potential winners, and a school board advisory committee selects those who stand out for recognition.

Wylie Way winners exhibit such qualities as respect, responsibility, caring, giving, grit, plan & purpose, gratitude, celebration, mentorship, and hope. Each month’s winner is celebrated at the monthly school board meeting and is honored at a special banquet in the spring.

The award recognizes those “who make a difference, not just for what they do, but for what they stand for and how they impact others,” the district’s website states.

Wylie ISD Board President Stacie Smith and a crowd of helpers were waiting at the school bus depot at the end of Jackson’s route on October 21 to surprise him with the award.

Smith acknowledged, “what a sacrifice for him to be going through something so hard and still be here for his kiddos.”

“Wow,” Jackson exclaimed, “it is amazing when you don’t expect something like this; it really touches your heart.”

Jackson, also an associate pastor at Greater Golden Gate Baptist Church, said the best way to approach a tragic situation is to “keep pushing forward.”

“I’m a man of faith, so I’m going to continue serving the Lord, and I’m going to continue driving these kids around,” said Jackson.

Jackson and his family currently live in an apartment courtesy of his insurance company. He said it might take a while before he and his wife, Glenda, move back into their rebuilt home. He noted that the reconstruction is still in the “blueprint phase.”

Smith said Jackson would be honored again at the school board meeting on October 24.