SERENA, Ill. — When you’ve driven school buses for 46 years, you have a lot of stories to tell, and you typically gain the respect of your colleagues.
Such is the case with Joyce Bernard, a bus driver for Serena Community Unit District #2, according to Transportation Director Frank Scariot.
“She’s very conscientious, and she loves the kids,” he told SBF. “The stories she comes in and tells of her trips are just fabulous. All of the current drivers respect her for the longevity that she’s had with the job.”
Bernard told SBF that she became involved in the school bus industry because she wanted a part-time job that would allow her to spend a lot of time with her children, so when a position for a bus driver became available at the Serena school system, she applied and was accepted, later learning that it was a full-time position. She has spent her entire career at Serena Community Unit District #2.
When asked what she loves most about her job, Bernard said she enjoys being around the students she transports, calling them “awesome.”
During her time in the industry, Bernard said she has seen buses become safer, and she said people must undergo more rigorous testing today to qualify to become a school bus driver.
“There also weren’t two-way radios when I started, and [getting them was] a big improvement,” she added.
One thing that hasn’t changed, according to Bernard, is students’ need for someone to care about them, and she said that if drivers respect students, the students will do the same. A case in point is a situation where students came to her aid early on in her career.
“At that time, I thought that some of the kids couldn’t care less about me, but I was involved in an accident,” she recalled. “We had black ice on the road and I didn’t realize it. No one was hurt in the accident, but the students got off that bus and they went and called for help. They did care.”
That accident occurred during the Christmas season, during which time a new bus lot opened for the district, and Bernard switched to a new route that enabled her to drive closer to her home.
“We went back to school after the holiday, and I learned that the students wanted to go to the school board meeting because they thought that I was being taken off of the route because of that accident,” she said. "There are a lot of good kids out there."
Bernard is in her 70s, but she has no immediate plans to retire.
“It will be whenever I feel that I can’t do it anymore,” she said.