When Sue Ann Goethals found out that she had been chosen to receive the International Marketing Inc. School Bus Driver Excellence Award at the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) Conference, she was “shocked, then excited.” Why a driver with her track record would be surprised at such an honor is anyone’s guess.
Goethals has been a school bus driver for Greece (N.Y.) Central School District since August 1977. In the 24 years since then she has never missed a single day of work. Furthermore, she hasn’t ever been involved in an accident, despite driving one of Greece’s most challenging routes year after year. She is also involved in numerous school- and community-related activities such as kindergarten orientation classes, safety competitions and nursing home volunteer duties. For these reasons and more, she was presented the award at the NAPT conference last month in Nashville, Tenn. Goethals gave SBF Plus a bit of background on her amazing career as a school bus driver.
SBF Plus: What made you decide to become a school bus driver?
Goethals: Both my parents were involved in transportation. My mom was a school bus driver for 25 years and my dad worked for the city highway office. My mom told me to try driving because she was sure I would like it. It wasn’t what I had originally set out to do, but I guess it was just destiny.
SBF Plus: What has motivated you to come to work every day for the last 24 years?
Goethals: I have a love for my job and I’ve been blessed with good health. And the main thing is that the people I work with have been so great to me. I have worked with many different supervisors and drivers over the years, but they have all been very caring people. You don’t find that too often.
SBF Plus: What is your favorite part about being a school bus driver?
Goethals: I really like interacting and communicating with the kids on my buses. I still see some of the students I had from the first year that I drove. Now they are all adults, but I run into them in different places and we recognize each other.
SBF Plus: What do you think is the key to being a successful driver?
Goethals: In high school, I always remember that the drivers I had didn’t really talk to the kids, and I remember thinking that I wouldn’t want to be a driver. But I think if you get to know kids and really communicate with them, it solves a lot of problems. I think communication is about the best thing there is for solving behavior problems. At first kids don’t say much, but by presenting a positive attitude to them, they will eventually warm up to you. It’s hard to be negative to someone who is positive. If someone smiles every day and says good morning to you, it’s hard to be nasty to them.
SBF Plus: Do you have plans to retire anytime soon?
Goethals: I haven’t even thought about that yet.