Susan Willis leaves her home in Chester every workday at 4:45 a.m.
She picks up her school bus, departs Green Mountain High School at about 5:20, and drives her route, first dropping off the high school students.
When Susan arrives at Chester Andover Elementary School, she has to keep the roughly twenty kids on the bus for about ten minutes until the school doors open.
"We play games like Simon Says, or I Spy," she explains. "Sometimes I'll read them a chapter book."
One morning, Susan said, "it was pretty cold, and the wind was blowing, a typical February day. Five children from the same household are one of my stops. So this little one is pint-size; she's just this tiny little thing getting on the bus with bare hands. Her hands were shivering."
" I asked her why she didn't have any mittens, and she told me that she only had one pair and that her parents told her she needed to leave them at school for recess."
"So I asked if she wanted me to knit her a pair of mittens, and she said, "yes, please."
Susan used the ten minute wait to trace the littler girl's hand and fingers on a paper, right there on the bus while the other kids watched.
Susan has a long day. She finishes up her route at about 7:45 each morning, then has to be inside the school by 7:50, where she is a special education para-educator at Green Mountain. This is her 13th year at the school, and the first year she has been a full-time employee.
When the day ends in the classroom, she gets back on the bus to run her route, and then she drives a late bus to take a few kids back to Ludlow.
By the time Susan drops the late bus off and heads for home, she's usually closing in on a 13-hour workday. Still, she promised some mittens to a little girl, and she had to fulfill her promise.
"I went home and dug out my crochet hook and yarn," she said, and even though it was only the one little girl who didn't have mittens, Susan knew her siblings wanted new mittens as well.
"Five pairs of mittens," said Susan. "I double knitted them to make sure they were extra warm, and it took between one and a half to two hours to make each pair," she laughed.
Susan said that she usually gets the urge to knit around Christmas and made around twenty hats as gifts last Christmas. She usually stops in the summer because "it's too darn hot."
But making these mittens was its own gift.
"The joy in the kids' eyes, I could not see their faces because they are required to wear masks, warmed me more than any mittens could warm them!" she said.
Later in the same week, the little girls asked Susan if she could make her another pair in a different color because "they were the best mittens ever."
Editor's note: Knitting experts pointed out that the mittens were crocheted, which is what Susan told us, so we removed "knitted" from the headline. Thank you craftspeople everywhere, you know your stuff.