He drove students to school—but they inspired him to get back into the classroom. Now, a Massachusetts school bus driver has completed his associate’s degree and is on his way to become a teacher, all thanks to the kids he took to school.
Clayton Ward’s family owned a school bus company in Tennessee. Ward, who had attended college ten years ago but dropped out, began driving buses in Massachusetts when he moved there.
“I never lost that need or that want to do more schooling or have a degree,” Ward told CBS News on Tuesday.
“I got the inspiration [to go back] after talking specifically to my high schoolers about a passion of mine, which is history,” Ward said. “Just talking with them a little bit about history…it inspired me, especially hearing them say, ‘You should be my teacher.'”
With the goal in mind to become a high school history teacher, Ward enrolled at MassBay Community College last May while still driving a bus full-time.
While talking to the high school students he drove, they discovered he had gone back to school.
“It came up in conversation, especially some of the older ones who are starting to look at colleges, Ward said. “I said, ‘If you’re looking at community college, you should look at MassBay, it’s a good school.’ Once they realized that I was going to school, they started asking questions about what it was like and stuff like that.”
While working, Ward earned a spot on the Dean’s list every semester and was also inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.
“It’s about your discipline. It’s not about doing the right thing when people are watching you, it’s doing the right thing when they’re not watching you,” he said.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, he was grateful for school to give him structure when he no longer had to drive the school bus for work. Now that he’s finished his associate’s degree—in three semesters—Ward is going to Framingham State to complete his bachelor’s degree.
“It’s right in the area where I would like to teach, because Framingham is a lower-income city. That’s where I’m geared to go towards, just because of my experience. Even with my family and their bus company, a lot of the routes we did were through lower-income housing,” he said.
“I’m still on cloud nine. I didn’t think I would ever be at this point. I expected to do well, but I didn’t imagine doing straight As, I didn’t imagine being on the Dean’s list, getting three or four awards for having one of the best GPAs for the graduating class. It’s still kind of all surreal to me,” Ward added.
Ward said he has one message for the high schoolers who inspired him: “You guys mean so much to me. I thank you for every time we were able to talk. It gave me more of a drive, more ambition.”