Panther pride earns bus driver recognition

Mary Reynolds holds the sportsmanship medallion she was awarded while attending a New Lexington boys basketball game at Maysville.

SOUTH ZANESVILLE – “Evidently I got an award for being loud.” That was Mary Reynolds, a 20-year bus driver for New Lexington School District, describing the sportsmanship award she received at a recent boys basketball game at Maysville High School. However, Mary did not receive the recognition from New Lexington fans. She was presented the medallion by Maysville school officials.

Her ardent support for every player as they were announced is Mary’s standard cheering procedure. That approach to supporting her hometown team is what caught the eye of the Maysville faithful. Mary was more than willing to explain why she cheers so fervently for whatever New Lexington team she has transported to an away game.

“I want every player on the team to feel important,” Mary explained. She added that while the stars of the team always receive support from the fans, many of the non-starters barely receive any applause.

“I never want that to happen to any player on my bus,” she said. While she was recognized by an MVL rival, New Lexington school officials have long realized what an asset Mary is for the school district.

“Mary loves to take kids to sporting events,” says Dave Rupe, director of operations for the district. “She is the first to cheer them on and she’s the first to tell them they should have played harder.” Her extra effort is not limited to sporting events, according to Rupe.

“Mary led the way with getting meals to families during the difficult time when we were not in school,” Rupe said. “She is always thinking of someone else.”

School does not open without the dedicated individuals who drive the school buses. Away games and field trips would be scrapped as well, but perhaps the most important act performed by school bus drivers is the personal greeting they provide our children every morning. The pandemic has robbed Mary of what is the most important part of each student’s ride to school.

“I’m not able to see their faces and greet them with a smile,” Mary noted with regret. She said driving children to school is more of a commitment than it is a job.

“Teachers have the kids for nine months, but bus drivers get them for their entire life at school,” she observed.

Rupe said Mary’s influence is not limited to New Lexington students. A few years ago she received training that allows her to serve as an instructor for new drivers.

“She will drive a full days’s schedule and work as an instructor during the time between bringing kids to school and then taking them home,” said Rupe.

With 20 years of school bus windshield time behind her, Mary was asked how far down the road is the arrow that points to her retirement exit. That brought quite the chuckle from the Panther fan. “When the state changed all the rules for retirement, I now have to drive until I’m 67 to receive my benefits, have insurance, and be eligible for Medicare,” explained Mary.

For those of you anxious to know when that day arrives, understand that a reporter never reveals a source. Do not expect to see Mary’s age revealed. Just know that she will driving the “Yellow Dog Express” well into the future. You can also count on her greeting your children with a smile even a mask can’t hide every time they step onto her bus. The “through and through” Panther fan will be proudly taking teams to away games as long as games are being played.

The New Lexington School District is blessed to have dedicated people on their roster of employees. Mary Reynolds’ name is at the very top of that list. Just ask the nice folks at Maysville High School.

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