Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Profile Of A School Bus Driver

Marshall ISD's Transportation Department is an invaluable, integral part of our district's operations. School bus drivers are the first face many of our students see every day, and the last school memory from each day every day. We appreciate the hard work and commitment to safety by all of our MISD bus drivers, one of whom was featured in this article published in the Marshall News Messenger back in the mid-1980s.

by Debra Olson
Marshall News Messenger

She rises at 5:30 each weekday morning, climbs aboard No. 29 and begins her morning route. Like many jobs, hers demands promptness and responsibility, but it also demands a genuine care for the safety and educational well-being of hundreds of Marshall school children.

Mary Burns, originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, a mother of three and grandmother of one, is a bus driver for the Marshall Independent School District. She has been driving school buses for the past four years, and has been with MISD for the past two years.

"I love my job, and I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world," said Ms. Burns, before pulling out on her afternoon run to the four schools on her route.

Although riding a school bus may seem dull to some, it is not to Ms. Burns, whose bus is usually kept washed and waxed.

"I like to see my baby look nice," she said, smiling. "People think I'm crazy because it's awfully big to wax -- but it makes it look nice."

A wash and wax job takes three to four hours with two people working on it, but the finished product is worth it to Ms. Burns.

To spark a few smiles from riders and splash a bit of color on the inside front portion of her bus, she has decorated the walls with an array of stickers. Some are pictures of animals and some bear messages, such as "Do not bite," "Walking on Water," "I Love You," and "Peace."

A clump of brightly-colored rabbits' feet, small stuffed animals, and other knock-knacks dangle from the rear view mirror. "Most of the stickers I got from the kids," she said as she pulled out of the district's transportation area where all the buses are parked. "I've got a great big (stuffed) monkey at home in my daughter's room, it was way too big to keep on the bus."

Not only has she gained stickers and stuffed animals, but during her two-year tenure in Marshall she has gained friendships as well.

"I've got one boy, he's real sweet and doesn't give me a bit of trouble," she said. "He puts up my (bus) windows for me."

The first stop of the afternoon was Marshall High School. The ride included a couple of rituals, typical of most bus drivers -- completely stopping at all railroad tracks and giving a friendly wave to all other bus drivers who pass by.

As she neared Marshall High School, she added, "I've already prepared my kids."

Within minutes after the bell, the bus quickly began to fill with students -- some quiet and shy and some talkative and outgoing. Almost all, though, seemed to possess a respect for their driver, calling her by name and doing what she asked.

"Every now and then when I'm not looking, they might throw something, but only when I'm not looking."

The second stop was Marshall Junior High School where the majority of the high schoolers would depart and a host of younger students would board.

"At the junior high, the girls come on first," said Ms. Burns. "That's my rule. They kept pushing and shoving, and I didn't like it."

When the junior high students boarded, most had a shy streak that the high schoolers did not. "Hello Miss Burns," echoed from almost every mouth.

"The bigger kids used to give the little one a hard time, so now I save the first four seats for the little ones," she said. Her "little ones" come from Sam Houston Middle School and David Crockett Elementary, which would be the next stops.

"Who's got that radio on back there? Turn it off." The owner obeyed the driver. If a student uses foul language on the bus, she tells them "to please use a different choice of words, or we'll talk to the principal."

"I've written a few up, but I don't do it unless I absolutely have to. If they act up, we cannot send them off the bus, because we are responsible for their lives."

When she arrived at David Crockett at about 4 p.m., the students from Sam Houston moved back as usual.

"Sometimes the kids make it stressful, but I still love my job," she said at the end of the trip.

The Marshall Independent School District transports more than 3,000 students a day, and the combined mileage of its buses, all of which meet the required safety standards, totals about half a million per year, according to J.R. Perkins, transportation supervisor for the district.