St. Joseph’s Students Hit the Road during Driver’s Ed

“Big Joe” instructs a class of students during Driver’s Education at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

It can be a daunting task to get into the passenger seat with a young driver … especially when it’s their first time in the driver’s seat! But somebody’s gotta do it!

And Joe, or “Big Joe” as he’s known on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, was just the man for the job.

“I’ve only had to use the emergency brake on my side two times so far,” he said, smiling.

Joe, St. Joseph’s Safety and Security Coordinator, is a former police chief and had years and years of experience with the rules of the road before coming to St. Joseph’s. In previous years, Driver’s Ed was taught by an instructor from the Chamberlain community. It was often difficult to enroll busy students who were juggling activity and work schedules. To offer more flexible timing to work with the students’ schedules, it made the most sense for St. Joseph’s to certify their own instructor. Newly certified as a Driver’s Education Instructor, Joe now teaches the kids to drive on top of his regular campus security duties.

Students take 30 hours of classroom instructions before they get behind the wheel.

The kids arrive to class with varying degrees of driving knowledge. Some have driven a little, while others have never even started an engine because their family doesn’t have a vehicle for them to practice. But after 30 hours of classroom instruction and coursework, students move on to the “real thing” and get behind the wheel.

“They’re all pretty nervous to get going,” said Joe. “But, we try to make it a fun learning experience.”

There’s a town driving day, where Joe asks the young drivers and backseat navigators to take him to multiple places around town as if they were running errands. Another day, they go down rural highway roads until meeting gravel, as many roads in South Dakota are just that. But the grand finale is a driving trip down Interstate 90 to the nearest “big city” of Mitchell, S.D., which is approximately 70 miles east of Chamberlain.

Along with the duty of driving, Joe asks young drivers to perform a few other tasks that go above and beyond other Driver’s Ed courses. For instance, the kids complete a drive-thru restaurant order, as that is another responsibility of a driver.

“Honestly, that might’ve been the hardest part of the whole class,” laughed Joe. “Some of the more soft spoken kids can have a harder time with it.” It helped that the reward was a snack or ice cream, though, and the kids raised their voices and rose to the occasion.

But, it wasn’t all fun and ice cream cones. Joe said there were teaching opportunities after student drivers made minor mistakes behind the wheel. No accidents occurred during the student trainings, but Joe repeated the fact that collisions and crashes can and do happen as an effect of something that went wrong. Teaching the young drivers the significance of staying alert while behind the wheel is important.

“I told them, ‘I won’t always be here to hit the brake for you’,” he said. “They were all really receptive and good students.”

All of the students in the first round of Driver’s Ed at St. Joseph’s passed their exams on the first try!

Following the final driving exam, every student in the first round of Driver’s Ed passed! This was a first for any class.

“It is a really cool achievement to have all the kids pass the written and driving test on their first try,” said Krista, St. Joseph’s Transition Specialist who helps high school kids prepare for life after college. “Having the added flexibility of Joe being right here on campus makes a clear difference.”

Joe said the experience has been very rewarding.

“Having a law enforcement background, I had a lot of stories to tell. I wasn’t sure if the kids liked hearing them or not because most of the time they’d sit quietly and listen,” said Joe. “But on the last day, one of the kids told me they were all going to miss my stories. That was nice to hear.”

Joe’s second class of young drivers hits the road soon, as he continues helping more teenagers learn the responsibility that comes with being a driver.

Philámayayethank you — for supporting St. Joseph’s Indian School to care for Native American children and their families for life — mind, body, heart and spirit.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

5 thoughts on “St. Joseph’s Students Hit the Road during Driver’s Ed”

  1. Thank you Joe for taking on this added responsibility of teaching the students drivers education. I did not know if was available to students at this school and I am gratefully surprised. I have fond memories of the summer many moons ago I took driver’s training in high school! We were not so fortunate an had a student hit a bus driving downtown Grand Rapids Michigan. I never forgot it. Life lessons are great! Good job to all the students who took it seriously and succeeded on their first try! I am very proud of you!

  2. This is so wonderful, that the students get to learn how to drive while at St. Joseph’s. The school really does prepare for life outside the school. Great job instructor Joe, and great job students!

  3. THIS IS GREAT…THANK YOU JOE…Good Luck to all they new drivers & the ones coming up next…God Bless you and keep you safe and angels to watch over you.

  4. Through the years that I have donated to St, Joseph”s – I have always been proud of the results — from youngsters to successful young adults — good luck and God bless all

  5. Hi everyone!! Love the comments on here thus far, very inspiring indeed! I heard of St. Joseph’s because my Jedi Mother was receiving mail from them, she’s a donor/helper. I just recently joined too as a notepad from St. Joseph’s was on our dining room table, along with a card. I was using the notepad for Journaling, was thinking of my old friend David & my brother Joseph. So here I am! This story about Big Joe is very cool . Sounds like they are all having good times doing productive positive things! Learning to drive is like learning to fly, flying down the roads & highways while on the journey of life! Safety first though, always! Hearing these kinds of stories about the organization you’re donating to is very important, because you feel more connected to the program, the folks being helped, & the people running the operations there. We don’t feel like just a number when we are “in the loop” or “on the inside” of what’s really happening! I remember there was an Indian School in Phoenix AZ when I lived there. It was a historical monument/park that was no longer operational except for as a park/property that was recreational yet had Signs everywhere which were telling a story to all who chose to want to know. The Circle of Life in this Garden area, a bridge over some water with ancient tribal knowledge inscribed into the path. This Indian School was in its prime many many moons ago, but the buildings are also still there. Anyways, reflecting on the ancient times in the Valley of the Sun Glad these kids in S.D. are getting the love & support from folks like y’alls who commented on here, and many others too no doubt . To all the folks working at this Indian School, St. Joseph’s, keep up the good work, and KNOW that the work you do is really really important & appreciated & respected!!!! Big Joe, Anthony Klickme, you guys rock

    The Force Be With You!!!! Always & Forever 777

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