Provided by Joey Koop

Joey Koop driving the bus during her daily routine.

…to be a school bus driver

I started bus driving in February of 2017. I had been working in the restaurant industry for years, and was ready to get a job that had better hours, decent pay, and with benefits. Also, my driving schedule works well with my family.

In order to qualify for the job, I had to get a CDL license with school bus and passenger endorsements. I received the training from the school district. It required taking written exams at the DMV, then hours of driving behind the wheel with an instructor. Passing a driving test at the DMV with the bus is required to get the license.

Even though bus driving is in some ways similar to driving a big car, there is more to focus on. Inclement weather, such as icy and snowy roads, is stressful, scary, and dangerous enough, but then I could be distracted by the kids if they are misbehaving. There is a lot that could go wrong, so it is important to know how to handle those types of situations. Also, every morning we have to pre-trip the bus to make sure everything is running and working properly. We also have miscellaneous training throughout the year and have annual training requirements. 

I have been in a situation that shows why that specific training is required! I signed up to do a field trip, and had to go back to the high school to pick up the kids. While driving through the parking lot to get to the pick up location, I turned down a lane by all the construction and had to turn around. With all the barricades, I thought I had enough room to make the turn, and when I did, the back of the bus scraped up against one, and one of the mirrors got caught on the fence.

I was lucky that there were no kids on the bus, and there was little damage to the bus. There was only a scratched bumper and the mirror was able to be readjusted. However, they had to call the police, there was a report filed, and I never got to do the trip. I was very upset but thankfully I didn’t get a ticket. 

The procedure is different depending on the situation, such as a fire or an accident. If there were students in the bus I may have to evacuate the bus or make sure everyone stays inside and still. We have drills with the students twice a year simulating an evacuation. It is important as the driver to remain calm and take control of the situation. Fortunately, I have not experienced either one so I can’t really say what exactly I would do until I am in it. 

We bus drivers are in the same union as teachers, so we have that benefit as well. If I work a six hour day, I receive health insurance. I get paid personal days, and 10 sick days each school year. I will receive a pension after working 10 years. For the holidays, my only benefit is not having to work!

With having a very unusual schedule,  I usually go home, run errands, sometimes take a nap, whatever I need to get done. I am done with driving in the morning by around 8:45 a.m. and don’t have to be back until 2:00 p.m., so I have a lot of time to do whatever. 

But when I am in that bus, I follow the school guidelines. But high school students are teenagers and can be childish, so most of the time I will give kids a chance to correct their behavior and give them a warning, but if they continue to misbehave or do something really bad, like bullying, hitting, or throwing something, then I write them up and the school administration handles the rest. 

Since I see the students almost every day, twice a day, I get to know a lot of them pretty well. I think it is important to talk with them when I have the chance. I try to make the bus rides enjoyable for them.

— Joey Koop

Since I see the students almost every day, twice a day, I get to know a lot of them pretty well. I think it is important to talk with them when I have the chance. I try to make the bus rides enjoyable for them. I have been given sweet notes/letters from the kids on many occasions for no reason other than to say that they like me. I save all of my letters.

Also during the holiday season and at the end of the year, I receive many gifts and cards from the families telling me how much they appreciate me getting their kids to and from school safely. That really means a lot and makes me feel good!

I would definitely recommend this job for any parent with school age children, retired people, and anyone who enjoys being around kids. I wish I would have started when my kids were younger. The schedule is perfect if you have kids in the same district you drive for. You have the same time and holidays off and they can ride on the bus with you. Plus, I love my kids, most of the time.

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