PECOS, Texas — Whether as a teacher, driver, coach, scout leader or engaged citizen, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School District (ISD) bus driver John Stickels, 83, has worked tirelessly for more than 50 years to make his community better.
A Korean War veteran, Stickels has worked for the district, first as a middle school history teacher, since 1958, and he continues to drive on a regular basis. Additionally, he has been named Pecos Educator of the Year twice by the city of Pecos, and has been a Boy Scouts of America troop leader for nearly 40 years.
He made the transition from teacher to bus driver in 1960 when his wife, the school’s volleyball coach, needed a replacement after the team’s bus driver had a family emergency, preventing him from driving to a competition in Abilene.
“I had to go take the driving test,” Stickels recalled. “I got my license, drove down there in a car and brought her back in a bus. That was the first time I had ever driven a bus.”
For many years, he taught and coached football, basketball and track at the same time, driving school buses to take his team to competitions on weekends.
Over the years, Stickels has seen an increasing awareness of various safety issues, due to more technology on the vehicles and additional regulations.
“Things are a lot different from when I started. Buses have changed,” he said. “When I started driving, they were all standard shift. Now, they’ve all gone to automatic. Air conditioning, air brakes and cruise control [are different]. You have to go nowadays to get your driver’s license at a school and take a driving test. [It’s] more strict now.”
While Stickels finds the children’s behavior and safety issues to be a challenge, he likes the people he works with and has been able to stay involved with the kids in school through driving, Steele Ewing, transportation director, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, told SBF.
“Some of the kids that he has coached, taught or transported are now involved with our school district as employees,” he added.
Stickels retired from teaching in 1998 and said this may be the year he retires from driving.
Ewing began working with Stickels in 1979 when he started teaching. After Ewing got his driving certification, they “have been buddies ever since,” he said. The longtime driver and teacher has been his mentor and friend throughout the years.
“That first year I [was] out of school I relied on him so much,” Ewing said. “He’s always been there as a friend when I needed him, and he’s a good, positive influence. We coached together, we taught together.”
Ewing also pointed out that Stickels is widely respected around town not only for his extensive work for the school, but for his community as well, particularly with Future Farmers of America.
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