School bus driver Mary Wooldridge won the honor of being chosen the 2014 School Bus Driver of the Year by the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation last month for saving the lives of two young students and living out the mandate of “safety first.”
Wooldridge, a Petermann bus driver for Madison Local Schools in Butler County, received the George Sontag, Jr. Award for School Bus Driver of the Year March 17 at a special ceremony in Dublin, Ohio.
When Petermann’s director of transportation, Bryan Howard, nominated Wooldridge, he commended her for applying what she learned in safety training to a real-world situation. Petermann belongs to the National Express Corporation family, along with Durham School Services and Stock Transportation.
“Mary is an exemplary employee. Her quick thinking, dedication to student safety and diligent application of numerous hours of safety training to her everyday routine saved two students’ lives,” said Howard.
On January 30, Wooldridge reviewed road-crossing safety procedures with her students before they exited her bus, as she does every day, not knowing the instructions would prove crucial moments later. She waited for an oncoming car to come to a complete halt for the bus stop arm and then allowed the kids to exit the bus. They remained on the side of the road until Woodridge signaled them to cross.
As they reached the middle of the road, Wooldridge noticed a pickup truck barreling toward the bus and driving too fast to brake in time. She blew her bus horn before shouting at the students in warning and motioning them to return to the side of the road. The first student did so immediately, but the second child froze for a moment. The truck could not stop in time and struck the back of the stopped car. As the second child began to turn back, the truck pushed the car in front of the bus within one to two feet of her. She was not hit by the car, but only by road debris.
The students’ father witnessed the incident and gave Woodridge a huge hug of gratitude and relief, thanking her for protecting his children. But the humble bus driver said she was only doing her job.
Jeff Vrabel, Sr., president of the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation (pictured above with Wooldridge), agreed with Howard that Wooldridge’s heightened vigilance went beyond the call of duty that day.
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award. Mary did what she was trained to do, and the students did as she instructed. Her actions to protect students, in all probability, saved their lives,” Vrabel noted. “She is to be commended, honored and thanked for what she did and continues to do on a daily basis."
School districts across Ohio will be thanking their school bus drivers for being everyday heroes beginning next Monday, May 5. The Ohio legislature has designated the first Monday in May as “School Bus Driver Appreciation Day.”
Lawmakers emphasized that this day is an opportunity for Ohioans to reflect on the outstanding job performance of more than 15,000 school bus drivers who transport students to and from school and school-related events throughout the year.
“Please take a moment to thank the men and women working in your transportation department for the efforts they make in keeping Ohio’s children safe each day,” the legislators stated.
Photo Credit: Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation