One-Two Punch

Houston-area fleet manager is recognized for his school bus maintenance and people skills

Written by Ryan Gray | A

riel Rodriguez is equally comfortable holding a punching bag and working on a yellow school bus. Rodriguez, 40, is the fleet man- ager for Humble Independent School District

and a volunteer coach at 713 Boxing Club in north Hous- ton. He started lacing up the gloves when the first of his six children became involved in the afternoon program about 10 years ago. But he was quick to point out, with a chuckle, that he had previous practice sparring when he was younger. Just not in the ring. In addition to teaching self-defense, the boxing

program seeks to instill self-discipline and respect in local youth, while also giving them an alternative to the streets. All three of Rodriguez’s boys and two of his daughters all boxed in the program. His 23-year-old son is currently stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, while his 21-year-old son recently graduated from U.S. Army basic training in Oklahoma. Meanwhile, his youngest, a 12-year-old daughter, currently trains at 713 Boxing Club and has won five amateur fights. The gym’s motto is “We’re not a team, we’re family.” The same can be said for Rodriguez and his school bus maintenance staff. He has helped create a happy garage at Humble ISD, so much so that widely reported me- chanic shortages are not affecting the district. “I’ve been very blessed to surround myself with a very

good team,” he observed. “We’re actually full [staffed] right now. We’re not short. That has a lot to do with cre- ating a good work environment and a team atmosphere.

46 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2019

Ariel Rodriguez, fleet manager for Humble ISD near Houston, leads this year’s list of rising student transportation stars.

That’s what I pride ourselves on here.” Rodriguez said that every day he puts himself in the shoes of his staff. “That’s where I came from. I was a tech, I’ll always be a tech,” he explained. “It feels good for someone to just say hi to you every day. I know that it feels good for someone to come to you and say, hey man, great job. I know it feels good to be acknowledged, I know it feels good to have a good BBQ every now and then and have the boss cooking in the sun. It makes people feel good. That’s what I do. I try to create a good team atmosphere, I try to keep a happy workplace, I guess you would say.” His success in working with people has blended well

with his professional acumen. Rodriguez graduated from Universal Technical Institute at age 18, a year removed from his high school graduation, and went to work for a rental car company. Within a few years, he was a certified mechanic for a Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep dealer. Then, a co-worker left to become a mechanic at Houston ISD. “One day he said, hey, you’d be great over here, you


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