Monday, June 17, 2024

Just a bunch of Everyday Heroes (and you can become one too)

(Photo courtesy First Student)

“It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.[5]”

(From a passage in George Herbert Palmer‘s translation of Herodotus‘ Histories, referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire):

Though this quote is often associated with the United States Postal Service (USPS) it could  equally apply to the women and men that drive the vehicles that deliver our community’s children to school, school activities and home again.

Day in and day out the heroes of the local bus routes make their appointed rounds, greeting child after child.

As little (and some not so little) feet scamper past the folding door, up the rubber coated steps and find their way to the smooth vinyl seats it’s the bus driver that bears the heavy responsibility of delivering our kids to their destinations.

I have never met anyone that has not ridden on a school bus at one time or another in their lives.  It’s a common rite of passage we share.  Everyone has a school bus story.

And for every school bus story to exist, somehow, there had to be a driver attached.

As a youngster I lived just 5 houses away from my elementary school and didn’t need a bus.  But every summer I and a dozen neighbors clambered aboard bus number 17 to catch a ride to the Parkrose High School swimming pool.  Mrs. Gardner was our regular driver and she always had a pleasant hello for us. To this day I can see her eyes reflected in her mirror as she continually scanned her little band of outlaws that were determined to find as much mischief as we could on her bus. If caught violating a rule, she would simply call out our name(s), ask us to stop doing whatever it was we were doing and give us a “mom stare” via that mirror that would coax us immediately back into compliance.

She would drop us at the pool, park her bus and wait for us to finish.  When done, we would climb aboard with eyes burning red from the chlorine in the water and we all were just a little quieter on the ride home, having exhausted most of our energy in the water. She made sure we got to our destination safely and that we would “go straight home.”

Thinking back, I don’t know if I fully appreciated the adults in my early life that took an interest in my well being.  Mrs. Gardner and the thousands more bus drivers like her-along with our teachers, police, fire fighters, mail carriers, etc.. in my neighborhood all seemed to understand that kids need someone to look out for them; to get them where they belong.

I had the chance to speak with representatives of First Student (the student transportation provider company that serves our local school district) and a couple of Lincoln City school bus drivers about what it’s like to chauffeur a gaggle of youngsters around our town (and sometimes much further).  What I expected were horror stories about awful kids and ungrateful parents.  Instead what I heard was how much these drivers enjoyed their jobs and how fulfilling it was to them to help families get their kids to school and after-school activities.

Staci, for example, is a Lincoln City resident who has driven a bus for First Student for nine years. She said, “I see a lot of the community. I make a lot of friends and I got to watch my kids grow up as they rode along with me on my route.”

First Student is currently recruiting for new drivers in the area and shared one of the benefits of working for First Student is a driver (if room permits) may bring their child(ren) aboard the bus during their route.

Corrine of First Student adds,  “This is a really good job for mom’s and stay-at-home moms that might want to pick up a few hours of work in between their kid’s school hours.  It offers someone like Staci to ‘stay in the mix;’ before school, after school-it gives her a chance to have her own time in between.”

Craig, also of First Student interjected, “I think our stories are our biggest assets. I was talking to a driver-a military veteran named Wayne-he still tells me, ‘This is the best job I’ve ever had.”

Craig continued, “Wayne had a student rider who was in middle school-who was struggling through his school year.  One day Wayne dropped the student off and the student said to him, ‘Bus driver Wayne, thank you for being here all year.  My home life hasn’t been real good but you’re someone I can always count on.’

Wayne said to me, ‘I’m 75 years old and nobody has ever said anything like that to me before.  It’s things like that that keep me coming back.'”

Kim, a 26 year bus driving veteran in Lincoln City says, “I’ve driven my kids and my grandkids to school. I just continue to love the job.  All but one driver (who’s moving away) are returning to their routes.  It’s a pretty happy place to be.”

Corrine adds, “We’re willing to work with people if they only have a couple of days per week availability. They can drive early mornings or afternoons.  We’ve got drivers that only drive home-to-school routes.  We have big bus driver, little bus driver, van driver and monitor positions available. We also have drivers that just do sports trips, field trips or private chartered events.

We work with people to give them what they need.  We’d love to have their help and we are willing to be flexible to get it.”

There are licensing and training requirements to become a certified school bus driver and First Student will help applicants get through the process and provide paid training.

“We have driver trainers that will help applicants study for their commercial drivers license as well as third party testers with the Department of Motor Vehicles at our Toledo yards. the process, on average, takes about 40 days from beginning to end with approximately 60-75 hours of paid training.”

Considering becoming a bus driver? Now is a great time to make the plunge as First Student is offering a $5,000 sign on bonus! Currently, the entry level wage is $20.50 per hour through June 30, 2024, and moves to $22.45 per hour on July 1, 2024.

The students of this area depend on us all to get them to their schools.  You could be that hero.

For more information click here.



Don Williams
Don Williams
Don Williams serves as publisher and editor of The Lincoln City Homepage.


  1. When I first started working with First Student, I wanted a part time job while my kids were in school. After I went through their training program, I was fortunate to drive a route with my daughter on the bus. It didn’t take long, and I was recruited to become a trainer. After a year, I moved into the safety manager position, and then into the location manager position. There are many opportunities to make school bussing your career. Oftentimes, I still have to drive a route, and when I do, I enjoy every moment of it.

    Can this job be difficult? Absolutely! But what job doesn’t have its ups and downs? In our job, we can actively make a difference with our students. We help them grow, we share laughs, and we listen to their stories…all while driving the bus safely on our busy roads. Sometimes, our smiles are the first ones and the last ones of their day. I love being that hero!

  2. What a great article. I appreciate the time taken to highlight these reflective vested heroes of the community.

    This is not a simple position. The driver has to learn the routes, the children, and parents within them. All of this why keeping our kids safe.

    The bus drivers also provide community support to different events or in worse cases, transport for evacuations such as wildfires.

    I am not a bus driver, but having spent time around them, they are very passionate about the work they do.

    Thank you for the article and hats off to the drivers.


  3. Our First Student family makes it a point to provide the safest way to and from school for our community’s youth. We go through rigorous training before earning our credentials to drive a school bus, so we can be that safe driver; however, our learning doesn’t stop there. Throughout the year, we learn through our coaching sessions, safety meetings and the experiences we gain on our bus routes.

    Every time we step on that bus to pick up our students, we wonder what the run will bring. Sometimes, we have students who are too excited and forget the school bus rules. Sometimes our riders surprise us by sitting in their assigned seats and spend their ride with their hands to themselves and speaking with their inside voices. When we have students who don’t remember the rules, we remind them. Just like children learn through repetition, our students learn and retain proper school bus behavior by constantly hearing us reiterate the school bus rules and seeing them posted on the school buses.

    Sometimes we have those students who just can’t follow the rules. There are many reasons why this could be happening, and it is then our job to figure out how we can best help the student understand that whatever we do, is for their safety. This is when we report behavior to parents and schools who then work with the students to help them become better riders. If the undesired behavior continues, we submit reports to the schools who then work with us to determine what the next steps will be. Unfortunately, these steps do include suspension and, at times, the privilege to ride the bus is revoked for the entire school year.

    Driver shortage is one reason why school bus behavior can be difficult to control. Routes are combined and student load counts go up. With crowded school buses, there is little room for personal space, and proximity is a contributing factor to upset conditions on buses. The best solution for this is to hire more school bus drivers, reinstate routes, spread out the student load counts, and give the students more breathing room. Who better to hire for this job than parents and neighbors who want to invest in the future of our community.

    Visit any of our offices in Toledo, Lincoln City and Waldport to chat with us about how you can become part of this family.

    We invite you to be that Everyday Hero!


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