After 49 years on the job, Marge Moore still mops and sweeps her bus every day, trying to set a good example for her students. She keeps the vehicle at her house so she can wash it on the weekends — and she makes sure to wax it every other month.
When it’s especially frigid and the gear shift freezes, she drags her blow dryer, with an extension cord, out to the bus to unthaw the transmission. She needs to pick up her kids on time, even during the winter, she said.
And even with no sick or vacation days during her career, Moore said she still gets excited to go to work every day as a bus driver for Virginia Beach public schools. Though she doesn’t want it — Moore says she’s just doing her job — she’s earning a little recognition as her tenure inches closer to the half-century mark.
Moore was one of two Virginia public school employees to be nominated for the U.S. Department of Education’s inaugural “Recognizing Inspirational School Employees Award,” which was created in 2019 to honor classified employees. Moore was selected by a group including Virginia first lady Pamela Northam. The U.S. education department will announce the winner in the spring.
Virginia Beach Superintendent Aaron Spence said Moore is the “epitome of an educator.” She, and other bus drivers, are the first faces students see to start their school day — and the last when it ends.
“She’s absolutely remarkable. When you talk to her and what you see shines through, there’s a reason she gets up every day and goes to work and hasn’t missed a day,” Spence said. “I truly believe she is just driven by her love for the kids who get on the bus.”
Moore grew up in Cumberland, Maryland, in a military family, which is what brought her to Hampton Roads. She stuck around and had two kids of her own, who attended and graduated from Virginia Beach public schools.
She said she started working for schools because she could bring her own kids with her on the bus and didn’t need to find a babysitter. In the 1970s, all the buses had stickshift and no air conditioning, which she said have been the two biggest changes since.
She’s been with public schools so long she’s seen some former students grow up and have kids of their own, whom Moore also took to school. That means a lot to her and, Moore said, they’ll know what she expects when they ride her bus.
At Christmas time, most families will bring her a small gift or make a card. And Moore will bring bones for the dogs that come up to the bus door.
The coronavirus pandemic has, of course, disrupted her regular school routine. Moore didn’t consider calling it quits before this fall, but it has been an odd one. The kids have assigned seats when there are in-person classes, which is tough for them to remember. And when learning is all virtual, she works with another bus driver to deliver food to about 50 families, whom she said wouldn’t otherwise have it.
“That’s why you wouldn’t catch me at home,” she said.
Spence said her consistency is especially appreciated this year, which has seen even more bus driving vacancies than usual. It’s a tough job, he said, and she’s very good at it.
She’s not sure when she’ll hang it up yet. If she’s still feeling good, she’ll drive again next year. She likes her summers off and still loves interacting with the kids. And the division needs drivers.
“If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t be doing it,” she said
Peter Coutu, 757-222-5124, email@example.com