Photo by Diane Chiddister
Evelyn Nickoson, standing in the door of her bus, No. 4.
Nickoson drove bus No. 4 for 26 years—
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
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
“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.