This school year, a class of second-graders at Akron’s St. Matthew Parish School has been pen pals with a Walmart truck driver, who sends them stories and photos from his travels.

On Wednesday morning, the eager students finally met their “Trucker Buddy,” Todd Fisher, in person and saw the truck where he spends days at a time on the road.

“Everything goes by a truck,” Fisher explained to the class. “Everything you guys get has to get delivered by a truck.”

Teacher Monica Denowski’s class is part of Trucker Buddy International, which pairs up teachers and drivers to teach children about the trucking industry and highway safety.

Both Fisher and Denowski found Trucker Buddy, which matched them up at the beginning of this school year, by chance. Denowski read about the organization in a teacher magazine.

“We do a trip around the world in my class for social studies, so I thought this would be a good way of merging trip around the world with his experiences around the country,” said Denowski, who’s been teaching for 20 years.

Fisher, who lives in New Albany, near Columbus, was stuck in traffic one day during his first year driving and saw another truck with a Trucker Buddy sticker. He radioed the driver, who told him about the organization. Twelve years later, Fisher’s been a buddy to classrooms in Indiana, France and his hometown of Smithville, near Wooster.

On Wednesday, Fisher, 41, visited the Catholic school in Ellet, which includes students in preschool through eighth grade, with his truck, which was on its way to a store about 30 miles away and carrying clothes, dog food and water.

The students climbed into the driver’s seat, shocked at the bed in the cab.

“It was exciting because there was a lot of cool stuff in there — a bed, refrigerator, the stuff he writes to us,” said Tyler Davis, 8. “So imagine somebody was sleeping while you were driving.”

Getting into the 80,000-pound truck, which is 13 feet 6 inches tall, was a challenge for some of the second-graders.

“Climbing up, it was kind of scary,” said Cindy Huang, 7.

Denowski’s class also won a $500 grant from Trucker Buddy International, which was used to create a reading corner in their classroom. The students enthusiastically showed off the space to Fisher, who studied education at the University of Akron for a few years in the late 1990s.

After working as an umpire in Minor League Baseball, including games at Akron’s Canal Park, he started driving in 2005. Since March he’s been driving for Walmart, where he worked third-shift in college and saw how the drivers were respected, and calls it his “dream job.” He primarily drives in Ohio and the surrounding states, 600 to 700 miles a day, five days a week.

Fisher, who’s driven 1.1 million miles over his trucking career, hopes to make it to 3 million miles, when he'll earn a special blue truck from Walmart. There are only three of them in Ohio.

Being a Trucker Buddy lets him combine his two passions — truck driving and teaching children.

“I get the best of both worlds,” he said.

Fisher writes to the class at least once a week, sharing stories and photos of where he’s traveling and what he's transporting.

Being pen pals with Fisher helps the students learn map and penmanship skills. They also learn how the things they buy get to them. If he asks kids how they get their stuff, they tell him it comes from the store. But he wants them to think about how those things got there.

“Now they know,” he said. “They know it goes from point A to point B.”

But the students aren’t the only ones getting something out of the pen pal relationship. It helps the truck drivers with the long hours on the road.

“It helps them with the boring monotony of just being out there by yourself all the time,” said Fisher, who will remain a Trucker Buddy with the class next school year. “When you have a classroom of kids you can write to, you can send postcards to, you can take pictures and send to them, it helps you to kind of have a different outlook or a better appeal about the job.”

 

Contact Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.