Brenda Arrendale has been driving a Madison County school bus for 34 years and she still enjoys it. And like her fellow four bus drivers with 30 or more years’ experience, in some cases she’s not only driven today’s children to and from school, but their parents as well.
“You have to have a love of kids, you have to enjoy working with kids to be able to do it (this long),” said Arrendale, who has driven kindergartners through high school seniors over the years. She currently drives a bus full of middle and high school students.
“It means a lot to me when a child says ‘thank you for being the type of bus driver you were,’ even though at the time they may have thought I was strict on them,” Arrendale said. “My job is to keep them safe…I tell them, ‘I’m your mama and your daddy until you get off this bus.’”
Gatha Bridges, who has been a bus driver for 38 years, agrees. She has driven a special needs bus for the past 14 years. “That took some getting used to, but now I just love it, I’d rather drive the special ed bus than a regular bus,” Bridges said. “You get very emotionally attached to them (students).”
All the drivers agree that, like all jobs, it has its ups and downs.
One “down” is in the area of discipline. “I don’t think we had as many (disciplinary) problems in the past,” Arrendale said.
Janie Mann Strickland, who also drives a special needs bus, agreed. “We use to know and talk with the kids’ parents more,” she said.
But still and all, Strickland says she couldn’t imagine not driving her bus route, even though for her, it means getting up at 5:15 a.m. “I just love it, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “I have never went home and threatened to quit.”
Madison County veteran school bus drivers, all with 30 or more years of driving experience, talk about the ups and downs of bus driving and why they all still love what they do. Pictured (L-R) are: Brenda Arrendale (34 years), Rudolph Nix (33 years, 9 months), Janie Mann Strickland (30 years), Gatha Bridges (38 years) and Ed Smith (31 years, six months). Margie Richards/staff
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