The drive of a champion: Schoolkids keep retiree feeling young while at the wheel of Tempe El bus

Mario Yanez became a school-bus driver five years ago after retiring from Tempe as a solid-waste equipment operator. — Photos by Gabrielle Dunton for

By Gabrielle Dunton, for

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If you’re considering retirement but you’re not quite ready, you might want to consider a career as a school-bus driver.

According to a recent study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, the majority of American workers (55 percent) plan to continue working during retirement, with 41 percent going part time and 14 percent full time. AARP compiled a list of top 25 part-time jobs worth considering for retirees, and school-bus driver is No. 4 on the list.

Being a school-bus driver can not only make you feel young again by spending time around kids, but you can also take advantage of appealing benefits and pay.

Tempe Elementary School District is hiring part-time school-bus drivers with a starting wage of $17.26 per hour with benefits and paid training.

Mario Yanez, or “Mr. Mario,” as students like to call him, has been a school-bus driver for Tempe Elementary for five years.

Yanez started his career with Tempe Elementary after many years of driving, recently retiring from the Tempe as a solid-waste equipment operator. Prior to that, he was a semi-truck driver.

Mario Yanez, or “Mr. Mario,” as students call him, enjoys building relationships with school kids, which he says keeps him young, as a bus driver for Tempe Elementary School District.

“To tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting much from this job, but it’s a lot more rewarding than I ever thought it was going to be,” Yanez said. “The kids are fantastic and I’m having a blast.”

A positive work environment, a supportive network of school staff and building relationships with students are among the highlights that Yanez says he has found driving a school bus.

“Not only does it get me out of the house with something to do, it’s rewarding because I really build relationships with these kids,” Yanez said. “If they’re having a bad day, I try to interact with them and help them feel better about themselves. I like being able to brighten their day.”

Every morning, a little girl that Yanez used to pick up for school would bring him a flower, which he said he would clip on his bus dashboard.

This small act of kindness is just one of the reasons why he says he feels great about the job.

Yanez recalls his decision to join the district based on a recommendation from a friend and has been spreading the word to his friends and family who are near retirement.

“This job is especially great for previous drivers who already have their commercial driver’s license,” he said. “But even if you don’t have one, the district will help you with getting one, and pay for your training, too.”

Gabrielle Dunton is Strategic Communication Coordinator for the Tempe Elementary School District



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