Bay Area Proud

Even After 50 Years On The Job, San Francisco School Bus Driver Still Goes Extra Mile For Students With Disabilities

NBC Universal, Inc.

In 1971, Shirley Canyon had a part-time job working for the US Mint in San Francisco. She really didn’t like the job. She spent her days mailing out commemorative coins to people who purchased them and the envelopes always cut up her fingers.

Shirley also didn’t like the fact that there was a huge clock on the wall directly in front of her, reminding her just how many tedious hours of work lay in front of her. “I didn’t like it,” Shirley recalled.

So, when her husband one day pointed out a help wanted ad in the newspaper, Shirley was interested. San Francisco was hiring school bus drivers. Now, even though Shirley had never driven a bus (or even knew how to drive a manual transmission), she did have a clean driving record. She applied and was hired.

52 years later, Shirley is still driving San Francisco’s children to and from their schools, now working for Zum, the tech-enabled student transportation partner of SFUSD.

“The job is too easy to walk away from,” Shirley said. “And the people are nice. I like everyone and they like me.”

To say “everyone” likes Shirley does not seem like an exaggeration. Particularly when it comes to the parents of the district’s students with special needs. For most of her career, Shirley's responsibility has been getting that precious cargo to school and back.

“The bus driver is a big deal to me,” said Marie Hudson, whose 19-year-old daughter, Sparkle, has been driven by Shirley for the past year.

“I’m reassured by Miss Shirley because she is so patient,” Marie said. “She will always go the extra mile for Sparkle.”

Marie recalled one day this school year when, after drop off at home, Sparkle’s key was not opening the front door. Instead of continuing back to the bus depot, Shirley called Marie on her cell phone to let her know about the problem and to let her know she wasn’t going anywhere.

“She was going to wait until I got home to make sure Sparkle got into the house,” Marie said.

“It didn’t hurt and nobody else was on the bus, so why not?” Shirley said.

It was an act of kindness and compassion that was not out of character for Shirley. In fact, last year Zum awarded her the first-ever "Paul Stein" award for her decades of dedication to San Francisco's school children.

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