Robby Ariola always has enjoyed his work. He served in several positions at Harp’s Food Stores and other places for 28 years and appreciated every day of his previous career. But after “arthritis got me,” he became a fulltime bus driver for Springdale Public Schools. He says, “It’s the best job I’ve had in my life.”
Really? Driving a school bus is the best job he’s ever had? Why?
“I’ve always loved my work,” Ariola responds. “My years at Harp’s were great. But I like to drive and I love the kids. I like greeting them and learning their names. When I know their names, they listen better. We are strict with safety but we want the kids to have fun. I know I can make a positive difference in their lives.”
Being a positive influence is important to Ariola but so is his schedule. His wife, Angela, is a pre-k teacher at Westwood Elementary. He notes, “We have the same holidays as well as time in the summer together.”
Ariola learned to drive a bus from Joe Dorman, who at the time ran the bus ministry for First Baptist Church (now Cross Church).
“Joe taught me how to drive a stick shift,” Ariola says. “After I had worked at Harp’s for quite a few years I was hired to direct the bus ministry at First Baptist. While I was in that position I also was a substitute driver for Springdale Schools.
“In 2006 I went back to work for Harp’s and was there 10 years before arthritis got me. I couldn’t stand for long periods of time. Driving a bus is perfect for me. I drive elementary and middle school students and drive the swim team shuttle between Har-Ber, Springdale High and the Jones Center.”
Would he recommend driving a school bus to those who may be interested?
“Driving a school bus in Springdale is a great thing to do,” Ariola answers. “I have driven charter buses but when you do that you are gone all the time. In this job you are home on weekends and at the same time every night. We are off during the summer and for holidays. When you work in retail, there are no holidays.
“If you have kids in school, you get off at nearly the same time they do. It’s a great job to have while your kids are growing up. Learning to drive isn’t difficult. We do training and testing in house. Our trainers are very patient and encouraging. We want new drivers to win.
Ariola adds, “The best thing, though, is the lasting difference you can make in the lives of our kids.”
Great opportunities, great hours and positive impact on kids are among the reasons driving a bus in the Springdale Public Schools is #THEChoice.