PHOENIX — Sarah Guilford has worked at Washington Elementary School District #6 for 42 years, and at 82 years old, she has no plans to retire — a testament to how much she loves her job.
Guilford started out working at one of the district’s school cafeterias part time. After three years, she learned that the district was beginning to hire female school bus drivers, so she applied and was hired.
“I drove for 25 years, never had an accident, and I've never had a problem with the people I’ve worked with,” Guilford, who currently works part time as a bus assistant, told SBF. “Now, I go out on the bus as an assistant when needed. It’s quite interesting — you get quite an education from the kids because they tell you so much.”
Guilford said a lot has changed in the pupil transportation industry, particularly in terms of technology. She recalled that when she began driving school buses, they weren’t automatic, they didn’t have air conditioning and they weren’t equipped with video surveillance cameras or two-way radios.
Two-way radios, in particular, are a big improvement of today’s school buses, according to Guilford.
“If we broke down, we had to wait for someone to come along and help us,” she explained. “Now, we can radio in for anything we need help with. It’s something we needed when I started!”
Most of Guilford’s memories with students are pleasant. She recalled a recent incident when she served as an aide on one of the district’s buses.
“I rode the bus and started talking to a student who could have potentially been a big problem [because of his behavior],” she explained. “But as he got off the bus, he shook my hand and he said, ‘Thank you for listening to me.’ All these kids want is somebody to listen to them. I have a lot of sympathy for some of these kids because of their home life, and I have a lot of compassion for kids.”
This compassion and her passion for her job drive Guilford to continue working.
“I think it’s very good to stay active, and I enjoy the kids, the principals, the parents and the people I work with,” she said.
Antonio Mlynek, transportation supervisor for special education, speaks highly of Guilford.
“Sarah is well known throughout the department for her compassion and positive energy,” he told SBF. “She is always courteous and helpful to others and is truly one of a kind!”