A century’s worth of driving experience retires from Lincoln-Way Transportation
Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Many school districts throughout the US are experiencing a shortage of bus drivers, and Lincoln-Way is no exception. At the end of the year, District 210 will lose 101 years’ worth of driving experience from just six members of their staff.

Bus drivers Joann Bonow, Therese Janus, Marcia Myers, Joe Brown, Karen Ruttenberg and Rose Wright have each driven for Lincoln-Way for over a decade. Bonow and Janus total nearly 50 years of driving between the two of them.

Bonow began driving in 1990 and will retire at the end of the school year with 28 years of experience. During her time with District 210, she’s driven multiple state champion teams to and from their competitions, and is perhaps best known by students for the spirited décor that covers her bus. Bonow consistently updates bus signage, props and her own ensemble to encourage her riders in their individual activities and sports. On special milestones, she even brings treats like freeze pops and sandwiches for the students.

“She decorates for every holiday, for every season, spirit day and for every team,” Janus says of Bonow. “One time she picked up German exchange students from O’Hare Airport and had the signs written in German. She goes above and beyond.”

Bonow says her best memories are of the kids she’s driven along the way. “I’ve been really lucky; I got to take Girls Soccer down to state. I’ve taken the Mathletes to state. Just seeing the kids mature throughout the years is the best part,” she says.

Bonow’s fondness of the students is a mutual feeling. Students think highly of her, too. “When she drove soccer down to state, it was Mother’s Day and all the girls gave her flowers,” says Janus. Bonow also received a charm bracelet from Boys Soccer; each year, the team would bring her a new charm to add to the bracelet. On one of her wedding anniversaries, she drove the Wrestling Team to their meet. When she picked up the players, they presented her with an anniversary card signed by each athlete.

Like Bonow, Janus will retire at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 school year. With 19 years of driving experience, she says she’s looking forward to family time and relaxing. In her bus, she keeps a countdown until the end of the school year, as well as photos of her children and grandchildren.

For nearly two decades, Janus has not only watched Lincoln-Way students grow up, but has also watched the growing of the Lincoln-Way area itself. “The landscape’s changed a lot—very much so. The roads, the houses, commercial buildings: Everything’s grown up around us,” she says.

Janus speaks highly of students she’s driven. “The coaches and sponsors and kids are great. In 19 years, I can count my bad experiences on one hand. That says a lot about the faculty and staff here,” she says.

Both Janus and Bonow say future drivers will have a good experience driving for Lincoln-Way. “You can earn a nice income if you’re willing to work. It’s a great job for someone with their own kids in school,” says Janus. “The students can be awesome; you just have to be friendly and keep them in control.”

While “seeing the sunrise, seeing the sunset and getting to move around daily” are great perks of the job, both drivers agree that the “best thing about driving” is the kids. “I like to joke with the students a lot,” says Janus. “They tell me that they’ll miss me a lot, that I’m the best, and that they love me.”

Those interested in applying to be a driver for Lincoln-Way District 210 are encouraged to attend the Transportation Open House on June 2, 2018 from 10 a.m. to noon. At the open house, potential drivers will be able to meet current drivers, try driving a bus, tour the facility and learn about compensation. Paid training is provided and no experience is necessary. Those interested in learning more should call 815-717-3100.