BY VENI FIELDS
VIRGINIA BEACH — Marge Moore was driving her school bus one morning this past fall when she received hearty congratulations and had no idea what the person was talking about.
Moore knew there had been some buzz in the Virginia Beach school district’s transportation department about recognizing her almost 50-year track record of not a single absence. But …
“I’m a bus driver,” Moore said during a phone interview in December. “I don’t like being out there in the spotlight.”
Nonetheless, department officials insisted she had something to be proud of, she said. They submitted a nomination video to the Virginia Department of Education for an inaugural federal program, Recognizing Inspirational School Employees, or the RISE award.
According to the November state education department announcement, the award was created by Congress in 2019 to honor classified school employees, such as clerical, school nutrition, health, pupil transportation and custodial staff who provide exemplary service to students and their communities.
Nominees were reviewed by a selection committee including Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam and representatives from the office of the Secretary of Education and the Virginia Department of Education.
Moore was selected along with only one other nominee from Virginia, a custodian from Louisa County Public Schools. The national winner will be selected in the spring, according to the announcement.
Dr. Aaron Spence, the superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools, detailed Moore’s nomination during a School Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1, before playing the nomination video.
His preface began with Moore’s perfect attendance during almost five decades of service.
“If I’m sick, I just make sure I have an appointment over the summer when we don’t have to work,” she said.
“That way, the parents can depend on you to be there at a certain time,” she said, “and I’m normally there unless the bus breaks down.”
Which only happened once, she said.
While she was with her ailing bus, a substitute driver showed up at the school in a different one — and children refused to get on it, she said, because they remembered her hard and fast rule to never get on unless she was there.
The children had to be convinced, she said, and she did her best to ensure it never happened again.
Spence continued with Moore’s list of accomplishments, including knowing the names of all the children she transports and their parents, and “all the dogs and horses in her neighborhood and deliver[ing] them treats” – and a “legendary cleaning regimen,” in which she mops the floors of her bus every daily, washes the outside weekly and hand-waxes it every month.
The nomination also mention’s Moore’s having used a hair dryer to thaw frozen gears on the bus in exceptionally cold winters.
During the pandemic while schools are closed down, the school bus drivers have delivered books and supplies to students on their routes, and Moore meets five days a week with other drivers on their buses, which were stocked with food for school system families to pick up.
Moore began school bus driving as a way to work and be able to bring her daughters with her when they were young, she said, and has never looked back.
Despite her modesty, Moore is grateful and honored by the recognition, she said.
But she said, at the end of the day, “I just like driving.”
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