SOUTH PORTLAND – The school bus carrying 25 children, all 3- and 4-year-olds, was heading down a back road in Scarborough on Wednesday morning when it suddenly slowed near a curve. From his seat near the back of the bus, teacher Josh Galvin glanced out the window, expecting to see something in the road.

But the problem was inside.

“I noticed the driver’s posture was of someone who was struggling or was unconscious,” Galvin said.

Galvin ran to the front of the bus and found the driver unconscious after suffering a heart attack, his feet still on the gas and brake pedals. Galvin said he put one foot on the brake and pushed the driver’s legs clear of the pedals with the other.

“It was not a lot of thinking, just a lot of reacting,” he said.

It was that reaction that earned Galvin a community challenge coin from the Scarborough Police Department, which says Galvin’s quick thinking and actions potentially saved many lives. After police posted a photo of Galvin being presented the coin along with a description of the incident, Galvin was heralded as a hero on social media and by the teachers and parents he’s met during his time at Toddle Inn child care center in South Portland.

Galvin – known lovingly at the center as a goofy Pied Piper who plays guitar and sings to students – has been teaching at Toddle Inn for nearly three years after moving to Maine from California, where he had taught for three years. A native of Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, Galvin set his sights on being an educator after he realized in sixth grade that he wasn’t going to grow up to play for the Red Sox.

Galvin said he appreciates the kind words people have sent his way, but doesn’t feel he deserves all the credit for averting a potentially tragic situation.

“I can’t stress enough how much this wasn’t an individual thing,” he said Friday after feeding his students lunch and getting them down for a nap. “I hear people call me a hero, but there were 30 of them on the bus. Thirty-one if you include the driver, who had the presence of mind to put his foot on the brake.”

The driver was taken to Maine Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery to install a pacemaker, police said. No one else was seriously injured.

The driver, whose name was not released by police, works for Union-based Luce Transportation. A woman who answered the phone there Friday said the company would have no comment, but that the driver is recovering.

The students were on their way home from a field trip to Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook when the incident occurred around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Also on the bus were teachers Caitlan Ebert, Amanda Wynne, Sharon Dean and Kiera Whitten. Galvin said each of his fellow teachers also jumped into action without hesitation. Ebert and Wynne got out of the back of the bus to call 911 and direct traffic because the bus was stopped on a curve in the road. Dean and Whitten checked on the children, who handled the situation better than anyone could have anticipated, the teachers said.

Scarborough police and paramedics were on the scene within minutes. As they worked, the teachers brought the children into a nearby field full of flowers, where Dean had them sing “Wheels on the Bus.”

The kids knew their bus driver had to go to the hospital, but the teachers tried to keep the experience “positive and light,” said Toddle Inn manager Erin Radigan. Most of them thought playing in a field of flowers was just an extension of their fun field trip to the farm.

“I was so impressed and blown away and very, very proud of all of them as a group,” Radigan said, her voice choked with emotion. “They made what could have been a horrific situation into something that looked like a drill. Everyone was safe and sound.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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