Miss Shari has such pride in her big yellow school bus that she once polished it from “stem to stern.”
Todd Poer, facilities manager of the Payson Unified School District (PUSD) told that story along with singing Miss Shari’s praises at a recent school board meeting where he honored her for her service.
“If a bus is clean, it runs better,” she said.
Besides polishing her bus, he said she makes sure it remains in tip-top condition from the inside to under the hood.
Miss Shari (she only wants to be known by the title the kids have given her) said she started her bus-driving career on a whim.
“One day I was looking in the newspaper and saw a ‘PUSD bus driver wanted’ ad — I came in and interviewed,” said Miss Shari. “I committed to two years.”
That was 15 years ago.
She said she just kept signing her contract every year for the “fabulous part-time job,” but at the end of this school year she has decided to retire. She and her husband plan on taking their RV out and seeing the country.
Miss Shari and her husband moved to Payson after retiring from owning an Exxon station and selling real estate in Tucson for 36 years.
“We decided to move to Payson after an anniversary weekend at the Majestic Mountain Inn,” she said.
Her husband decided to continue selling real estate and she wanted to keep busy too. The bus driver position was the perfect part-time job. Early morning routes, a long break in the middle of the day to get chores and shopping done and then the afternoon routes and she was home in time to get dinner going.
Besides that, Miss Shari said the kids made it a special job.
“They have taught me more than I’ve ever dreamed — and they have kept me mentally young,” she said.
Miss Shari calls her bus the turtle bus because, “the little guys get confused with numbers, but they remember an animal.”
She has turned the turtle into her mascot gluing a passel of the toys above her driver’s side window.
Yet her ability to connect with the kids works well because she has no problems setting boundaries.
As a mother of four, she had no problems speaking softly, but carrying a big stick, Miss Shari said.
She listens to and respects the children riding her bus, but when required, she asserts herself.
“The main thing is keeping them safe,” said Miss Shari.
She said sometimes it would come to the point when she had to intervene if children put others in danger or were being cruel. She would bring the bus to a stop and write tickets.
A couple of times she had to call the police.
But she loves the new security cameras — they have improved the culture on the bus.
“Well, it’s improved (discipline),” she said. “One day they noticed the cameras, it was mostly the big kids, and they said, ‘Miss Shari, what are those? Are they working right now?’ I told them they work as soon as I turn the bus on,” she said.
She loves her job and feels a little humbled by the attention and praise Poer gave her.
“It’s a huge responsibility to drive a bus, all the bus drivers deserve an award,” said Miss Shari.