Debra Hendrix Photography
Vicki Johnson wakes up before the sun even rises at 4:30 a.m. to go down to feed her animals, making sure they’re all taken care of. After that, she gets herself ready by getting showered, changing and eating breakfast and heads out by 6 to the bus lot on Route 120 in McHenry, Ill. During the winter, she tries to get there earlier so she can check the bust for any lost items, or garbage that might be on the floor of the bus and heat it up so the students can get to school warm.
Being a bus driver has its struggles. Johnson needs to make sure students arrive on time, and get to their destinations safely. Johnson said that she’s constantly worried about time, whether she’s arriving late to drop the students at school or if she’s getting there late to pick students up from their bus stops.
“I am the first person they see in the morning…and I get kinda a thrill about that,” Johnson said. “I like to say ‘good morning’ to them and see them and it’s always nice.’”
As she gets to school to drop them off, Johnson needs to quickly head to the next school so she can arrive on time for that pickup. She drives elementary students to school in the morning, and high school students home in the afternoon. Johnson also used to drive shuttles between McHenry’s East and West campuses.
“I used to do 10 shuttles a day,” Johnson explained.
One of the many people who knows the struggle of bus drivers and what they go through is Dr. Ryan McTague, the Superintendent of District 156. During the winter, McTague goes out to check the conditions of the road to determine whether or not the bus drivers should drive for both their safety and the student’s safety.
“I like to think that our bus drivers are pretty highly trained and they’re able to navigate the roads,” McTague said. “We always take that into account to determine whether or not we can have school, but I’m pretty confident in our driver’s abilities to get our kids to school safely.”
Bus drivers can carry a lot of stress, due to their tight schedules and poor road conditions can intensify this stress as they try to find a way to get to school on time.
At times, bus drivers can also feel disrespected by students.
“Most of the time we’re not appreciated,” Johnson said.
However, Johnson said though at times they don’t feel appreciated, they care about the students and their safety and that is why they continue to do what they do.