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January 2, 2019 2:45 PM, EST

Half a World Away, Drivers, Students and Teacher Still Come Together

Bob and Linda Caffee with students in France Bob and Linda Caffee went on a field trip with some students in France. (Bob and Linda Caffee)

For truck drivers Bob and Linda Caffee, life on the road did not start until the kids were grown and out of the house. In 2000, the couple started driving as a team, and have been doing so ever since. Now owner-operators and members of Freightliner’s Team Run Smart, they are based out of St. Louis, but are on the road a majority of the time.

RELATED: Trucker Buddy Program Helps Drivers, Students Form Special Bond

About nine years ago, the Caffees joined the Trucker Buddy International program. The first two pairings didn’t stick, but since connecting six years ago with Stephanie Derrien-Guivarch, an English teacher in Saint-Malo, France, their experience has been life-changing.

“I think the cool thing about Trucker Buddy is that it puts a face in the truck, and [students] realize that while trucks might be intimidating, there is a real person driving it. A person they look up to,” Linda Caffee said.

Trucker Buddies at the St. Louis Arch

Teacher Stephanie Derrien-Guivarch (from left), with her family Axel, Valentine and Fred at the Arch in St. Louis. (Bob and Linda Caffee)

In 2016 Bob and Linda made the journey overseas to meet Derrien-Guivarch, her family and all of the students they had been writing to for the previous six years. They spent three days going to school with Derrien-Guivarch and spending time with each of their three pen-pal classes. “They [the students] were excited because we didn’t go to Paris, we went straight to Saint-Malo to see them, which they thought was unbelievable, that anybody would come to France just to see them,” Linda Caffee said.

One day during the visit, the school hosted a parents night. It was an opportunity for past and present students to bring their parents to meet the Caffees. “It was a line of parents telling us what a difference we had made to their children’s lives,” Linda Caffee said.

Visiting in Missouri

Linda Caffee (from left), Bob Caffee, Valentine, Axel, Stephanie Derrien-Guivarch and her husband, Fred, at the Caffees' house in Missouri. (Bob and Linda Caffee)

The relationship with Derrien-Guivarch’s class offers the students an opportunity to learn English, geography, math and many other subjects. Whether the students are learning how many miles they are driving, where on the map they are going or how much fuel is being consumed, the students are always engaged with a lesson. “I always make them convert everything,” Linda Caffee said.

Bob and Linda have become very close with Derrien-Guivarch outside of the Trucker Buddy program. Derrien-Guivarch and her family came to Missouri and visited the Caffees in 2018, staying at their home.

The Caffees have integrated their own family with the classes. One of Bob and Linda’s daughters visited the students while overseas in the military, and every year the family collectively works to make Christmas a special time for the students.

French students' cake

A student in Saint-Malo made this cake for Bob and Linda when they arrived at the school in France. (Bob and Linda Caffee) 

“At Christmastime we always send over cards and a project that my oldest daughter [Nicki Caffee] and I work on,” Linda Caffee said. Her youngest daughter, Brandy Smart, helps with the crafting. “Both of us like to cross-stitch, so this year we made a stocking for each one of the kids.”

The Caffees have a tall order to fill, sending a stocking to all 150 students.

Being a part of the Trucker Buddy program has changed the Caffees’ lives. “A lot of our friends are now involved with Trucker Buddy because they have seen the positive effects it has had on us and the fun we have with it,” Linda Caffee said.