"The best part is the kids. You're the first person they see in the morning. You're the last person they see at night. It's rewarding to see the kids strive."
Every day looks different for Kingsley band director Lance Dubay. He leads Kingsley's marching band and jazz band and bounces between the high school and middle school to lead all of his ensembles.
But when he's not conducting, he's behind the wheel of a big yellow school bus, helping the district fill its ongoing need for drivers.
"The music program is my first job, and I make sure my kids are being taken care of. Driving a bus in-between means that I have to come in early and stay late."
He's not the only Kingsley teacher who's pulling double duty.
Elementary P.E. teacher Ben Summerfield and Special Education aide Renee Thon both drive routes in addition to their positions in the classrooms.
"I actually drive bus in the AM and PM routes and work 4 hours in the classroom to get 8 hours a day," said Mrs. Thon. "The more years I stayed, I realized this is more than just a job. One day, you realize you have not only been their school bus driver, but you have earned their trust. It’s a magical feeling! I enjoy seeing them go from starting kindergarten to graduation in a blink of an eye."
Mr. Summerfield started driving a few years ago when the school was short on drivers. He says a lot of people seem intimidated by bus driving, but it's not as hard as you might think.
"A lot of folks say their hold up is driving such a big vehicle. I try to put them at ease; you get used to it quick, and just take wide turns and what not," he said. "Some people are worried about the behavior. For the most part, we have pretty well-behaved kids in our school district."
Environmental Science and Wilderness teacher Boone Scharp got his CDL and driver certifications 12 years ago to bus his students to field trips and adventures.
"You can’t have life-changing experiences sitting at a table all day," he said. "Becoming a bus driver offered me that opportunity to take kids climbing and caving, winter camping, and being all together on the bus rather than having you know, 20 kids separated with chaperones."
Mr. Scharp got his master's degree in experiential learning and knows the value of getting his kids out of the classroom. But before he had his CDL, the planning, expense, and paperwork of hiring out bus drivers added up. That was when he decided to become a driver so he could do it himself.
"A normal teacher would have to fill out a form two weeks in advance, hire a bus driver, they'd have to pay that bus driver. There's so much paperwork and bureaucracy; and now, for me, all that can happen in five minutes."
Having his license allows him to be able to plan adventures on the spot. On a recent December day, he decided to bus his kids out to the greenhouse on the district's 500-acre property to teach them how to start a campfire using a shoelace.
Student Chloe Morgan successfully sparked a flame that day. For Mr. Scharp, he hopes he he's helping to ignite a passion for learning in his students.
"That is an experience she will never, ever, ever forget," said Mr. Scharp. "I have 27 years of teaching under my belt, and these years as a bus driver opportunity are my best years."
He takes his kids to places like the Veterans Park, climbing walls in Traverse City, the State Hospital grounds, and to the district's land where his students can do wildlife population studies and hang birdhouses.
He also drives a regular bus route in the mornings and after school. As a full time driver, he's helping out his kids, able to take weekly field trips, and he's also adding to his pension.
"Some people call me Mr. Frizzle. For a normal person, this might stress them out, but this should be like an opportunity that any teacher can have because it seems to make the, you time in class a lot more enjoyable."
The Kingsley Transportation Department is looking to hire more school bus drivers. The district will pay for your training and is offering a $1500 signing bonus. To apply visit www.applitrack.com/kingsley/onlineapp