Sharon Lanham is a familiar, trusted face in the community she serves. With nearly 40 years of experience, Sharon is the longest tenured driver to provide service for the Calgary Board of Education at her location. “I am blessed to be doing a job that I really love,” says Sharon.
Nearly 40 Years and Counting
After hearing an ad on the radio in 1977, Sharon decided to apply to become a school bus driver. Her husband also supported the decision. “He joked that I was always driving our two children and my friends around town, so I might as well become a professional driver and get paid to do it,” shares Sharon. She has driven a variety of routes over her career with First Student. For the past 15 years, Sharon has transported students with complex learning needs to a special needs school in Calgary. “Because these are students with special needs, it is important not only build trust with the children, but also their parents,” believes Sharon. She begins to develop a rapport with families before students board the bus for the first time. Sharon contacts parents before the school year begins to introduce herself and learn more about the children on her route. She has found it greatly reduces the anxiety that everyone tends to feel on the first day of school.
Three Simple Words
As a driver, Sharon embraces the opportunity to have a positive impact on each student’s day. There are three words she always uses when interacting with students, “please” and “thank you.” Sharon believes the words, while simple, set the tone for students, and she is committed to ensuring a positive experience for all who ride her bus. “Students need to know you care,” says Sharon. “When they know what is expected in terms of behavior on the bus, you create an environment where students arrive at school feeling safe and respected.” Having a background in early childhood education, as well as being a mom and a grandma, helps Sharon relate to her students. She still keeps in touch with many of the families she has worked with over the years. One of her students even competed in the Winter Olympics in 2010. “I have really enjoyed seeing the children grow up before my eyes,” shares Sharon. “By supporting their education through transportation, we play a role in helping them to become successful later in life.”
Sharon has seen the industry change over the decades, including in the area of technology. When she started driving, her school bus did not have the safety features it does today. GPS, crossing gates and the Child Check-Mate System have helped deliver an even safer ride to and from school. “Keeping students safe is our number one priority,” says Sharon. “I’m proud to work for a company that is an industry leader when it comes to technology, safety and driver training.” Calgary has also changed considerably during Sharon’s 40 years with First Student. The city has grown from nearly 120,000 to 1.1 million people. Despite more traffic on the roads, Sharon has navigated her route, which covers 220 kilometers (136 miles), without incident. She has a perfect driving record, which is pretty remarkable considering Sharon has logged hundreds of thousands of kilometers during her career.
Heart of the Operation
Sharon considered retiring after 25 years of service, but now plans to keep driving as long as she is in good health. She enjoys making a difference in the lives of children and appreciates how they make her smile. “The students truly are my motivation,” shares Sharon. “They depend on me, and I don’t want to let them or their families down.” A great team of drivers is at the heart of every successful transportation operation, and Sharon truly embodies our commitment to providing the best start and finish to the school day.