One last ride on the route


PLEASANT HILL — It was a bittersweet afternoon Wednesday as Paige Johnson boarded a big yellow schoolbus for her final ride as a Newton bus driver.

“I’ve cried many tears already, it’s been hard. I’m going to miss my kids,” Johnson said. “They’re such great kids, and I’m going to miss all of them.”

Johnson has been a bus driver for 49 years, 47 of which have been spent driving for Newton. Her favorite part of the job is her kids — something more than evident as many of her riders greeted her with “Hi Ms. Paige!” and high fives as they found their way to their seats for their ride home. Over the years, Johnson has built a connection with the community and the school district and has driven around children of parents she used to drive to and from school, day after day, year after year.

“I’ve got to know families and watch these kids grow up and have children, and then they have children. It’s just a wonderful situation,” Johnson said.

Johnson was first employed as a bus driver when she lived further north in the state and her school district was in desperate need of bus drivers; she took to the position quickly and has been with it ever since. Her love for her kids and driving have kept her as a driver for so long, and she credits the faculty, Superintendent Pat McBride, and her fellow bus drivers as the reason she’s stuck with Newton for 47 years.

“It’s a wonderful place to work, and I love driving a school bus. You can’t ask for a better school than Newton,” Johnson said. “It’s a very rewarding job, and I’m very glad I’ve been here all this time. I’ve learned patience, love, and people just caring about each other, being there for each other and helping one another. There’s a lot of love in this school and all the people around here. You couldn’t ask for better people to be around or be connected to — it’s like one big, huge family.”

While Johnson says she doesn’t know what the next step for her in retirement is, she’s looking forward to some time to herself and is planning on making the best of that next step — whatever it may be.

“I just want to take one day at a time, one thing at a time, one day at a time, and just be happy and join my family, my grandkids, my great-grandkids — that’s what I’m looking forward to. And if (Newton) needs me here in any way, shape or form, I’ll be here for them,” Johnson said.

Newton Local Schools also said farewell to assistant principal and guidance counselor Steve Fisher who, over his 47 years in education, collected several titles — English teacher and coach, to name a few. While he’s taught at districts such as Covington, Bethel and Sidney, Newton made such an impact that he chose to stay in education instead of retiring in 2009. The small district, good values, quality teaching staff and parental support made all the difference, according to Fisher.

“It’s been exceptional. If it wouldn’t have been for the fact that I was here at Newton, I wouldn’t have stayed the 12 extra years past my first retirement,” Fisher said.

Fisher ultimately decided to retire because he felt like he had reached a point where he had done all he could do as an educator and administrator and that it was time to start a new chapter.

“I knew in January, but I waited until March because I wanted to make sure. It came to a point where I felt like I had done what I could do, and it was time to do some other things,” Fisher said. “I’m leaving with no regrets. I think I’ve more than excelled and have done what I have ever intended to. I never intended to work for 47 years, but it happened anyway.”

As a coach for 45 years, Fisher coached the Bethel boy’s basketball team to a state championship in 2001 and coached the Covington football team at the 1978 state championship. His coaching was all done alongside working in education. Fisher said that while teaching overall has changed over the 47 years that he’s worked in education, the one thing that has stayed the same is the basic premise of education — that if teachers are willing to give their best, students will also give their best.

“I think the one piece of advice you can give is, really, time goes fast. If you sit back and think, time goes quickly. Forty-seven years, for me, has just flown by, if I really sit and think about it. I’m really lucky — I’m really lucky that I chose education,” Fisher said.

Newton Local Schools also wished the following staff well on their retirement from the district:

• Diana Mirek, who has worked 30 years in education as a speech therapist and worked for 20 years at Newton Local Schools.

• Carol Fessler, a 1972 alumna and long-time employee.

• Kim Jordan, who began working in education after being a stay-at-home mom for several years. The last 15 of her 22 years in education were spent at Newton.

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