Sharon Schalk, the namesake of an annual award given by the Washington Association of Pupil Transportation (WAPT) to a member who displays leadership in management or safety, passed away last week after a short battle with cancer, said an associate. Schalk was 69.
Schalk served as president of WAPT in 1998 and 1999 and was the first inductee into the association's Hall of Fame in 2009. In 1995, she was the first classified school support employee to be honored for her outstanding contributions to the children, schools, families and community by then Gov. Mike Lowry. Schalk also received a certificate of appreciation from State Education Superintendent Dr. Terry Bergeson for the 2007-2008 school year.
She started in the industry as a school bus driver for White Salmon Valley School District in 1976, became a driver trainer in 1978 and by 1980 was named transportation supervisor. She then became transportation director and served until January 2010 for the district that serves a community located along the Columbia River about 65 miles northeast of Portland, Ore.
In 1983 Schalk was named the lead instructor for the state's driver trainer program. Since then, Washington state's driver trainer program has received national recognition and been used as the model for programs in other states, said Susan Tibke, White Salmon's current transportation director, in an email to fellow WAPT members.
Several months after her retirement the White Salmon Valley district board of directors dedicated the transportation facility in her honor, naming it the Sharon E. Schalk Transportation Center, Tibke stated.
Schalk won numerous awards from WAPT during her career including: Outstanding Transportation Employee for 1986-1987; the Roadeo Committee Leadership Award for 1986-1987; Outstanding Transportation Person for 1986-1987; the Dedication and Service Award in 1998; and Lifetime Membership Award in 2001. WAPT also developed the Sharon Elizabeth Schalk Leadership Award in 2009, the same year she was named the inaugural member of the WAPT Hall of Fame.
"To say we will miss her is an understatement," wrote Tibke. "Her smile, her pleasant attitude, her strong leadership are all things that have made us better people and better employees. Sharon gave us her all, and we will strive to carry on her legacy of superior safety and customer service in the transportation field -- for students, for schools, and for the community."
Services were held this past Saturday at Henkle Middle School in White Salmon.