Last New Year’s Eve, while driving Metro Route 5 in north Seattle, Operator Teshim Awalom saw a pedestrian trying to recover their walker, which had fallen in the snow. Teshim worked with the person to locate the walker, helped them onto his bus, and asked if they needed any medical assistance.

On May 19, King County Metro General Manager Terry White recognized Awalom’s actions that snowy day, presenting him with the George Turner Award, given by the Northwest Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Chapter member DeeAnne Cooper was at Metro’s Central Base to congratulate Awalom for the award.

King County Metro General Manager Terry White with operator Teshim Awalom’s (left) who received the George Turner Award
King County Metro General Manager Terry White with operator Teshim Awalom’s (left) who received the George Turner Award

The award acknowledges a transit operator who best exemplifies a positive attitude and awareness of the elderly and disabled communities. A passenger on Teshim’s bus as he assisted the person in the snow sent in a commendation for Teshim, saying that he had all the essential qualities to be honored with this award: “humanity, care, respect, politeness.”

“Our operators have a number of responsibilities whenever they are behind the wheel, but they understand the special obligation that comes in assisting seniors and all riders who have mobility issues,” White said. “Teshim saw a person struggling in the snow and did what was needed to make sure they were safe. Teshim’s deserving of the George Turner Award and his response on that cold December day reflect the dedication all of our operators have to the passengers they serve every day.”

A champion for people with disabilities

George Turner was an active voice for those with disabilities in our community. Decades ago, before accessible buses were available in the United States, Turner put those principles into action, protesting the lack of wheelchair access on Metro buses by chaining himself to a bus.

Turner served as a president of the Northwest Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. The organization has recognized his memory by dedicating this award in his name.

Serving those in need

Teshim was hired as a part-time operator in October 2017 and went full-time in July 2018. He has earned several Safe Driver Awards and five commendations. Teshim became a transit operator to fulfill his longtime wish to help people in need and meet people of different backgrounds and cultures.

Born in Eritrea and raised by a single mother after his father was killed, Teshim moved to the United States in 2010 as an asylum seeker. He went to college and earned a degree in nursing. He also attended media school for video production.

Teshim is happily married to his high school sweetheart, and they are blessed with two daughters. In his spare time, Teshim enjoys community service, especially related to giving ADA and mental health support. He also likes biking and watercolor painting.

Teshim, who dedicated the recognition to his fellow operators, said his job is “challenging and fun.” He encouraged everyone to “look for those who are in need of your help. Put yourself in their position and you will be happy and thankful.”

Tim Flanagan, Metro’s director of Bus Operations, echoed the praise heaped on Teshim. “I’m so proud to be part of an organization that takes pride in recognizing and celebrating operators that display amazing customer service to our elderly and disabled communities,” Flanagan said.  

Metro’s legacy of support for accessible transit

Metro’s history of providing accessibility for all riders extends back nearly 50 years. In 1979, Metro ordered our first accessible coaches and started testing different wheelchair lift systems. Metro was the first transit agency in the country to successfully get a lift working so well it could be used in service. When the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, Metro was well on its way to offering accessible service. By the end of the last century, all King County Metro buses were equipped with lifts or ramps to provide easier access for our riders with mobility challenges.

Passenger input had a role in the selection of the recipient of the George Turner Award. Please let us know about the actions of transit operators that deserve recognition by leaving a comment on our website.