POLAND — RSU 16 bus driver Danielle Girardin is thinking about all of the miles she’s traveled and the children she’s known and loved over her career that began more than 40 years ago.

“I began driving back in 1973, right here in Poland,” she said. “I’ve driven three generations of some families.”

Friday will be her last day as a full-time driver, if schools are open. If not, her retirement will begin next week. But it may not last long.

Girardin said she will put her name on the substitute driver list.

“I love my job; I love the kids, but I don’t like getting out in the cold and it can be nerve-racking on snowy days,” she said. “You’re so glad, getting them home, but now I can pick and choose when I drive.”

She said driving a school bus can be challenging, especially when she gets a note that reads: “Joey is supposed to get off at his grandmother’s.”

“That’s all right if you know who the grandmother is, but, if not, it could be a problem,” she said.

The rambunctiousness of students can also be challenging, she said. “You have to be able to stand a lot of noise. When they come out after school, they can be really cranked up.”

Tom Kelley, RSU 16 transportation director and Girardin’s supervisor, said she is often called on for extra driving.

“She does a lot driving for school trips; teachers are always asking for her,” he said. “Danielle’s never late and never called in sick. She’s totally dedicated to her kids. She’s going to be greatly missed.”

Sherrie Leighton has driven with Girardin for more than 20 years and said she will miss her a lot.

“Danielle is dedicated, devoted and doesn’t miss a day,” Leighton said. “We’ve had a lot of fun. The town is so lucky to have had a driver like her.”

“Very, very dependable — the kids really like her,” longtime driver Mike Downing said. “She takes her job really seriously.”

Lee Therriault has been driving buses with Danielle for 15 years, having met her 25 years ago when he was maintaining buses for Harry Busch, from whom the Poland School Department took ownership of the school bus fleet in 1999.

“Danielle is a fantastic person, has a great attitude about everything,” he said. “She’ll help you out any way she could.”

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