Tammy Shoup didn't think it would happen.
She couldn't imagine receiving the highest accolade a local school bus driver can get.
But, last week, the humble bus driver was dubbed Fort Mill's 2008-2009 Bus Driver of The Year.
"I love this job," Shoup, a six-year bus driver, said after the awards ceremony held last Thursday at Nation Ford High School. "I wouldn't want to do anything else. I tell my middle school kids that I'm one of the luckiest people to drive them around all day."
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Other nominees included Rose DeBus, Stuart Chandler, Kathy Clark, Sylvia Marlow, Patricia Marshall, Wardell Massey and Debbie Vanover. Outgoing bus driver of the year is Sharon Davis.
Potential bus drivers of the year are judged on several categories, including appearance, attitude, general knowledge and attendance. Shoup possessed all those attributes, fellow bus drivers and supervisors said.
The award, complete with a trophy, a check for $1,500 and other goodies, stunned Shoup. Yet, outgoing transportation supervisor Bernard Gill said she was worthy of the honor.
"Mrs. Tammy has set the example," he said.
Fellow bus drivers agreed.
"You deserved it, sister," Tina Williams told Shoup as the two embraced in a hug after the ceremony.
Seconds later, Shoup shook off the compliment.
But Williams defended her stance.
"For her faithfulness in driving Bus 11," Williams said. "She has been a consistent, faithful bus driver. I've never heard her whine when things are out of order."
Patricia Brown, a five-year driver, also spoke of Shoup's character.
"She always has a kind word to say," Brown said of Shoup. "Whenever I see her face, she's always smiling. So, why not her?"
Shoup tried to duck the accolades, but they kept coming. Her fellow drivers were also recognized.
"I want to say thank you to each of you bus drivers," Fort Mill schools Superintendent Keith Callicutt said during the ceremony. "We had a wonderful year. We've been truly blessed. It's a compliment to all of you that we're able to transport about 6,000 bus riders.
"Tammy, we congratulate you," Callicutt added. "Bus drivers, we thank you for all you do."
Event speaker and Fort Mill School Board member Diane Dasher spoke about her brief experience as a child riding a school bus and later turning over her children to bus drivers.
"As a parent, I just want to thank you for the kindness you showed my children and all the children of this district," Dasher said.
"You really do make a big impression of these children. You are the first people from the school who sees these children in the morning. Some of these kids don't get a kind word until you speak to them in the morning. You are the last ones who see them from the schools in the afternoon."
Carrying out the job is a tall order, Dasher said.
"I don't know how can manage to be pleasant, deal with all these kids and drive the bus," Dasher told all the bus drivers. "I want you to know that you're appreciated."
Shoup's husband, Robert, could do little to hide his pride after the ceremony.
"She takes her job very seriously," he said.
"She loves the kids. She respects the kids 100 percent. She's a true bus driver."
An embarrassed Tammy Shoup remained humble.
"This is great," she said. "We are the lowest on the pole. This is a privilege to see the children in the morning."