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It's a Living

Chance remark leads to labor of love


I can’t parallel park. Period. And I’ve come to accept that about myself. Not even a Mini Cooper in the middle of a football field with two professional driving instructors front and back shouting directions at me through a bullhorn.

At Giant, I’m willing to walk a mile across the parking lot just to get a pull through spot, so I won’t have to back up when I leave. I lack a full understanding of spatial relationships and believe along with Lot’s wife that it’s never good to look back.

All of which is why I deeply admire Maria Hough for managing to not only drive, but park, a school bus 35 feet long and 9 feet wide filled with children. She’s been doing it for 22 years.

Maria’s family moved to Solebury in 1981 to accommodate her father’s job. She graduated from New Hope Solebury High School in 1982. Upon graduation she worked in her family’s business, a country gift and furniture store.

She married Hal in 1987 and became mother to his two young children. Hal joined the family business and Maria welcomed the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. They had three more children together.

In 1994, Hal started The Callowhill Collection, a wholesale cabinet making/furniture restoration business.

A chance remark by her blacksmith that he thought driving a school bus would be a good fit for her started Maria down her present career path. The blacksmith had come to work with the horses the family kept as pets, and he was also a driver for Pennridge School District. That day she happened to have 13 kids in her yard. She took care of them while their parents went to work. He told her “If you can do this, you can drive a bus.”

A Commercial Drivers License and job application soon followed.

Today, Maria is loved by the children who ride her bus, their parents, and her colleagues. She truly embodies the idea of making one’s work one’s ministry. Angelo Berrios says, “As Superintendent, I often reflect on the contributions of our staff, especially those who ensure the safety and well-being of our students every day. Maria Hough exemplifies the dedication and heart that define the spirit of Pennridge School District. I have personally accompanied her on her morning bus run, and it is evident that her presence brightens the journey for every child she transports.”

I ask Maria how she manages to establish such great rapport with students. “The secret is to engage,” she says. “I always say hello and goodbye even when it’s not reciprocated. Sometimes we don’t know how meaningful those words can be. I utilize the information provided to connect names with faces. I know all my students’ names.”

Being mentally present and in the moment is also important. “Whichever run I’m driving, that’s the one I’m focused on.”

Sometimes it’s necessary to mediate disagreements. Maria says, “I handle conflict by keeping calm and being fair. And I consistently keep to three basic rules: stay seated, keep the aisle clear, and use inside voices. If a child is making a poor choice, I reflect it back to them in the form of ‘Would I let someone do that to you?’ Usually that’s enough to redirect the behavior.”

Maria authored “Outside My School Bus Window,’ a story in words and pictures about the seasonal sights she saw along her route during the school year. “The book was inspired by my original run. It’s based on conversations and observations over a two-year period. There was dramatic development of our farmland, which prompted questions from the students. While the book was a labor of love, my strongest suit is being a driver.”

“I love driving a bus,” Maria tells me. “I deeply value the trust I am given by students, parents, and the district. In the beginning, it allowed me to work mostly while my kids were in school. Over the years, it’s evolved into a career. I’ve been able to accumulate sick days, take advantage of extra driving opportunities, and build a retirement. It’s a job more people should consider trying. I’m exceedingly grateful for the positive work environment.”

"It's a Living" is a weekly column showcasing residents who are making a living in an interesting way, or people who’ve reinvented their careers because they could no longer ignore the voice in the back of their heads telling them to start over, take a risk, chase a dream or set out on their own.

These are stories of bravery, persistence, resilience, and vision.

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