Curtis Jenkins. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Rachael Ray kicks off her 14th season Monday with a special guest – Richardson ISD’s Curtis Jenkins. Jenkins is the big-hearted school bus driver known for treating riders as his own children and teaching them lessons about hard work and respect for others. Ray, who’ll host NFL greats Nick Mangold and Amani Toomer along with Food Network star Sunny Anderson Monday, doesn’t name Jenkins in promos but says her “surprise guest” will be the real VIP-of-the-day.

Advocate featured Jenkins in this February story, and he’s been the center of international stories by People, CBS Sunday Morning, the Huffington Post and many others. He has spent thousands of dollars out of his own pocket purchasing personally-selected gifts for all 70 charges on his bus route to inspire them and encourage them to see their potential.

At the RISD Convocation in August, Superintendent Jeannie Stone presented a new SUV to Jenkins, donated by an anonymous well-wisher who worked with the district and El Dorado Chevrolet to flip the script and make Jenkins the recipient. Since then, he’s been a district ambassador of sorts, stopping by LHHS football practice and chatting with other teachers and student groups, lifting spirits.

I’ll watch Jenkins on Spectrum at 9 a.m. on channel 12 Monday, but you should check your local listings.