Elko County School District celebrated Wanda Krenka, 81, who retired at the end of the past school year for more than five decades as a school bus driver, reports the Elko Daily Free Press.
Krenka first started in 1962 when no one else could drive neighboring children to school. The district asked her to help as she already drove her own kids to school each day.
She recalled that her husband tied a playpen directly behind the driver’s seat so her 9-month-old daughter could accompany her.
“So that made it simple. We didn’t have any rules in those day,” she added.
Krenka continued driving that rural same route for the next 32 years before handing the keys to her daughter-in-law. Krenka then moved into town and took another route for the district before her first retirement in 2011. But months later she returned to the district as a substitute driver and then as a special-needs driver because she missed the job.
She attributed to her success over the years to building good relationships with her students.
“You learn each child is different, and you learn to love each child. If you have good rapport with your parents, then the children will have good rapport and you get along good,” Krenka told the newspaper. “The number one answer to problems on a school bus is having that rapport with your kids.”
She said improvements in road infrastructure, the advent of the Commercial Drivers License program and the evolution of school buses to automatic transmission and digital radios are among the biggest changes she’s witnessed. All the while she earned the respect of her fellow bus drivers as well as management.
“She’s been doing it so long, she can tell you how it used to be, to how it is now, and what’s changed. And what used to be kosher and what’s not kosher now,” said Matt Tourreuil, Elko County School District transportation supervisor.
Krenka continues to work full time at a local store that opened in 1929 and specializes in gear for ranchers, as well as a summer dispatcher for the Bureau of Land Management’s Elko district office.