LESSONS KEEP ON TRUCKIN' : DRIVERS' POSTCARDS HELP TEACH GEOGRAPHY.
Cheers and squeals of excitement greeted truck driver Rivers Livous as he circled the blacktop playground at Serrania Avenue School on Wednesday, honking the big rig's horn.
Livous and two other truckers came to the school for the first time Wednesday to meet the students they have been sending postcards from stops across the country throughout the school year.
Livous and drivers Joe Barboa and Victor Muchmore brought geography to life for the students with three dozen postcards from coast to coast.
With each postcard, students learned geography, history and facts about each city on the driver's route - and a little bit about the drivers.
Ten-year-old Nersay Naoum considers Livous his buddy.
``He would travel all around the state, and he thought about us. He took the time to send us postcards,'' Nersay said.
Erika Dantuin, 11, said Wednesday that her favorite postcard is the one Livous sent from Fort Worth, Texas, because of ``all the neat sights and stuff.''
``They would tell us all kinds of information every time they sent us a postcard - about what the place was like and what the climate was like,'' said Erika, who lives in West Hills. ``I think it's pretty cool to be able to meet these guys because they've been keeping in touch with us for so long.''
In return, students sent bags of letters to the drivers at their home base in Gardena and asked questions such as ``What color is your hair?'' and ``How old are you?'' and ``Are you married?''
``It's such a great, heartwarming feeling,'' said Livous, 36, of Pico Rivera.
``I'd give these kids an A. It was fun. And with this type of response, of course I would do it again.''
The postcard program was arranged by fifth-grade teacher Meredith Smith and Kim T. Foster, vice president and general manager of Auto Transport Co. in Gardena, where the truckers are employed.
The truckers were ferrying new sport utility vehicles to production tracks across the country as part of a nationwide promotional tour. Smith said her fifth-graders looked forward to the mail.
``They learned so much. They learned about geography, U.S. history, the capitols of states, communication - it's really hands-on learning. They were so excited about it. Every day they would ask, `Did we get a postcard?' '' Smith said.
The students prepared a heroes' welcome Wednesday for the three drivers, decorating the outdoor courtyard with red, white and blue streamers and balloons. The drivers were given official school T-shirts while parents, teachers and administrators snapped pictures of the big event.
Curious students bombarded the drivers with questions about their work and looked over the big blue trucks loaded with cars - poking their noses into every nook and cranny.
``We're all still on cloud nine,'' Smith said after the drivers left. ``I've already set it up again for next year.''
Photo: (1) Transporting cars, the driver of a big rig pu lls into the school parking lot to meet children he sends cards.
(2) Trucker Rivers Livous shows his rig to his fifth-grade pen pals at Serrania Avenue School in Woodland Hills. Livous sent postcards from his coast-to-coast driving.
(3) Children cheer as they prepare to meet a pen pal.
Hans Gutknecht/Daily News