BEAUFORT, S.C. — A veteran school bus driver who has been behind the wheel for 33 years was honored by her school district and by the state, being named by each as the 2018 bus driver of the year.
Juliette Washington was honored last month as the Beaufort County School District’s 2018 Bus Driver of the Year, according to a news release from the school district, and was announced last week as the 2018 South Carolina Bus Driver of the Year.
The state award was presented to Washington by the South Carolina Association for Pupil Transportation during an awards luncheon at the organization’s annual conference.
“This is unbelievable,” Washington said. “I never thought that little old me would receive an honor like this.”
For the state award, nominations were solicited from all South Carolina school districts for “drivers who performed in an exemplary manner to provide safe, effective, and efficient transportation throughout the school year,” according to the news release from the district. Candidates were screened and the winner was selected by the association’s board of directors.
Washington, who is affectionately known by her student riders and colleagues as “Miss Judy,” transports students who attend Broad River Elementary School and Battery Creek High School.
Even after more than three decades behind the wheel, she still loves her job, Washington told the school district.
“It’s special every day: getting up early in the morning, making my first stop, and seeing my ‘cargo’ board the bus," she added. "Seeing all of these little kids. They keep me young.”
Tori Mitchell the transportation supervisor for the district, said Washington typically arrives for work around 5:15 a.m. and immediately checks with dispatchers to see if there are any routing problems that she can help with. When Washington completes her afternoon routes, Mitchell said, she always double-checks to see if assistance is needed in other areas.
In addition to her daily route responsibilities, Washington also trains new drivers and is working to become a certified third-party tester for drivers seeking their state commercial driver’s licenses.
“Awesome is the word that comes to mind,” Mitchell said. “No matter what you ask of her, the answer is always yes — and always with a smile on her face.”
Maria McClure, the transportation director for the district, said that Washington "truly loves her students" and tries to ensure that other students as well as the ones that she transports get to and from school safely.
"If it looks like a bus is going to be late, and [the students] are not going to be picked up on time, she is the first one to say, 'I'll go get them,'" McClure said.
Superintendent Jeff Moss said Washington’s selection honors the entire school district.
“We were already proud of Ms. Washington for being named Beaufort County’s driver of the year,” Moss added. “To have her honored at the state level is truly outstanding. She’s a shining example of how school bus drivers should perform their vitally important roles.”
Watch a video from the school district about Washington below.