June 05, 2003
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Photo by Diane Chiddister
Evelyn Nickoson, standing in the door of her bus, No. 4.


Evelyn Nickoson drove bus No. 4 for 26 years—

School bus driver turns in her keys

For almost three decades, Evelyn Nickoson spent her days making sure that Yellow Springs children arrived safely at their schools. Each weekday morning the local school system’s most experienced bus driver rose at 5:30 a.m. so she could arrive at the school bus barn by 6:30, after which she completed her first bus safety check of the day, then fired up the big yellow bus No. 4 and hit the road.
On her most recent route, Nickoson first drove disabled youngsters to a Xenia school, then she returned to the village to transport preschool students to Head Start. She next made a second trip to Xenia, taking teenagers to the Greene County Academy, after which she delivered morning kindergartners back to their homes and picked up afternoon kindergartners and took them to school. After a break, she repeated the schedule for the afternoon, finishing her day almost 10 hours after it began.
For 26 years Nickoson drove her route, often in snow or rain or ice. And when she retires this year, the school system will lose not only a very competent bus driver, but also someone who, co-workers say, cares deeply for the small people who rode her bus.
“She taught me not just about driving and bus safety, but also about caring for children. She treated them like people, not just a part of her job, and they loved her for it,” said bus driver Susie Butler, who was trained by Nickoson and who rode Nickoson’s bus as an aide for two years. “She’s absolutely the best trainer I could have had. We’ll miss her greatly.”
As well as driving children, Nickoson served as trainer for the district’s new drivers. She also “played a major role in creating” the district’s kindergarten training sessions, during which the school’s youngest children, along with their parents, are instructed in bus safety, said the district’s transportation coordinator, Theresa Newton, who has worked with Nickoson for her entire career.
“Evelyn goes way beyond her job responsibilities,” Newton said. “She cares so much about the children and has given so much of herself.”
For her part, Nickoson feels grateful that she was able to take care of Yellow Springs’ smallest and most vulnerable citizens.
“It was a wonderful experience, driving for the Yellow Springs schools,” she said in an interview. “I miss it.”
That Nickoson loves her job seemed evident as she showed a reporter around the district’s bus barn last week. She’s been sidelined since having knee surgery in January, and she greeted the buses like old friends. She seemed most at home sitting in the driver’s seat, where she was warmly greeted by the other drivers.
The other three full-time drivers are a close group of individuals who share a concern for each other and for children, she said.
“Our drivers are caring and careful,” Nickoson said. “The children’s safety is number one.”
When she began driving 26 years ago, Evelyn Nickoson didn’t anticipate spending the better part of three decades on the road. At the time, she and her husband, Joe, had three of their four children still in high school, and she sought work that allowed her to be home when her children were out of school.
One by one the children left home, and still Nickoson kept driving. She enjoyed the driving, loved the children and appreciated seeing the sun rise each morning on a route to Cedarville. She had a good working and personal relationship with Newton, her boss, and loved working for a school system so small that she not only knew all the children, but many of their parents as well. One by one the years slipped by, and before she knew it, she had spent 26 years with the Yellow Springs schools.
During those years, only the weather has presented challenges, Nickoson said. She’s had very few discipline problems, perhaps because she’s usually transporting very young children or only a few older children at a time. She said she especially enjoys being around preschool and kindergarten students.
“They’re so happy. They have no problems,” she said. “You feel their excitement.”
Over her 26 years, Nickoson has seen changes in her work. The most significant change, she said, is a greater awareness among school systems and drivers regarding children’s safety, and buses that come with more safety features, such as mirrors and crossing guards.
Although her heart still seems to reside in the seat behind the steering wheel of the big yellow bus, Evelyn Nickoson feels it’s time to draw her career to a close. And although she’ll no longer be driving the No. 4 bus, she trained the new drivers, which means they’ve been taught to handle Yellow Springs children with care.

—Diane Chiddister