MARYSVILLE – Shelly Henderson doesn’t worry anymore about kids misbehaving on her school bus.
She knows their mothers, and some of their grandmothers as well. Henderson has been driving for the Marysville School District for 41 1/2 years.
If a kid acts up, she’s been known to say, “Your mother was never this way.” And the child responds, “You know my mom?”
Henderson started driving bus not long after graduating from Marysville High School. She was looking for a job and decided to give it a try. She said the test was similar to driver’s ed.
“It’s not as severe as it is now,” she said.
Henderson said when she was younger she sometimes drove a truck with a trailer. She wasn’t nervous about driving a big vehicle. She was more worried about the kids and the roads.
“There were narrow roads at that time – not as wide as they are now. And there were ditches on both sides big enough to hide the bus if you fell in them,” she said.
She started out as a sub in Lakewood and was nervous about that because kids always treated their regular driver better than a sub. “Once I got used to it, it was no problem. I was able to handle the students,” she said.
When she came to Marysville, she knew some of the kids because she wasn’t much older than them. She was just honest with them and showed them respect, and problems were few.
“Plus, we had the support of their parents back then,” she said.
She’s had to handle her share of fights in the past. Early on, one student broke his nose, and “Blood spread all over four seats.”
Henderson first started driving in the Getchell area, but for 35 years has been in the Marshall Elementary area. She said she likes driving and the students because every day is different.
“The kids have their own personalities. I enjoy talking to them,” she said.
She started out just wanting to save money for college, but just stuck with it. The district did help her take three years of courses at Central Washington University in Transportation Management. Henderson said the hours are perfect for her because she had two kids and her husband three who all went to Marysville schools. They got summers off together and winter and spring breaks. As a result, “You get plenty of time with your family.”
She said she was lucky to find a job she liked early in life.
“A lot of people go from job to job until they find the job they want,” she said.
Henderson said students gave her gifts over the years, especially at Christmas.
“I’ve got lots of coffee cups,” she said, and many kid-made tree ornaments, too.
Henderson said she enjoys watching the kids grow up, and every once in awhile she’ll see someone in a store who will say “hi.”
One student came up to her, gave her a big hug and said thank you. He said he’d been in a bad car accident and the only words he heard were hers telling him to “slow down.”
Henderson plans to retire soon. She and her husband, who was a head mechanic at the bus barn, plan to travel to states they haven’t been to yet.
She said the drivers often have breakfasts and lunches together, along with Christmas parties. They have a scholarship fund for their kids to go to college.
“The drivers are like family,” she said.
When the district was smaller, the bus drivers would hang out together.
It’s different now.