Woodward, Okla. —
Marilyn Long sums up her career as a bus driver for the Woodward Public School District with one word: "awesome."
That's also the same word she used to describe her excitement over being recently named the district's 2013 Bus Driver of the Year.
"It's awesome because I wasn't sure I would be able to (drive a bus) and to be able to and to get so many years is exciting to me," Long said.
While she now has 11 years of experience driving a bus, Long said it took a little prompting at the beginning for her even to consider the career.
"My husband drove before I did and there was a lady who worked with him, so he told me, 'if she can do it, you can.' So I started driving and fell in love with it," she said.
And according to Long, there's a lot to love about being a Woodward school bus driver.
But the thing she loves the most is the children she gets to interact with each day as she ferries them from place to place.
"You know kids will be kids, but mine are just wonderful kids," she said. "Kids will just talk to you and they're honest about everything. And I have a good time with them, we sing and laugh on the bus. They never give me any trouble. They're just awesome and I just love being their bus driver."
While Long "know(s) just about all the routes," her main route is No. 4 which serves some of the rural students out by the West Woodward Airport. Besides taking those students to and from home and school, she also transports students from the Early Childhood Center to the Middle School in the afternoons each day so they can get on other buses to go home.
In addition to the students she transports, Long said what also makes her job enjoyable are the people she works with.
"I love working with the people we have," she said. "The ladies I work with are just amazing and the mechanics are always there ready to help."
She also couldn't say enough about her boss, Rosetta Loomis, who is transportation director for the school district.
Above all, she said that Loomis is always available to offer assistance and advice.
"I think too that we have the best boss there is. She works with us, she helps us, and she is just a real good lady to work with," Long said.
Loomis had just as many positives to say about Long.
"She works herself silly; she's just a good worker," Loomis said of the award winner. "She's here every day on time and is always willing to do anything you ask of her and I mean anything. She's always on top of everything. And not only does she drive a bus, but she helps make sure all the buses are clean, and I mean they are spit-shined. She even uses a baby bottle brush on the hinges of the bus doors to make sure they are clean too."
For Long, driving a school bus is a point of pride.
"I take a lot of pride in what I do," she said, because she knows how important her job is in terms of keeping the kids safe.
"I think the biggest challenge is making sure they're safe," she said. "So the main thing for me is to keep them seated. My 2 big rules are that I don't allow fighting and they can't stand up on the bus."
Long said she takes the utmost care in looking after the children's safety while they are passengers on her bus.
"I'm looking after these kids just like I'd want mine to be looked after if they were still in school," she said.
Being a bus driver is "all about helping the kids," Long said. That means everything from "making sure they've got all their stuff on the bus or off the bus" to just offering them a smiling face to start their day, she said.
"Lille Johnny or little Suzy might not have slept good, so I'll try to get them in a better mood on the way to school," she said.
Long's pride in her job also stems from her pride for the school district for which she works.
"I have 4 grown boys and they all went through the Woodward school system and I think it's one of the best systems there is," she said. "We have great principals, great teachers and the district has always been awesome with us, at least for my family."