ST. CHARLES – Even though St. Charles School District 303 employees Bryan Johnson and Ken Farley both have experience in state competitions, they each second-guessed their final placement at events in June.
They were both surprised when their names were called as first-place finishers.
"When they announced my name, I about had a heart attack," Johnson said.
Johnson, a school district bus driver, won the Illinois Association for Pupil Transportation "School Bus Roadeo." Farley, the district's manager of vehicle maintenance and repair, won the association's Technicians Competition. Each event was held June 19 in Peoria.
The two will go on to represent the district at the next level of each competition. Johnson and Farley said they each love their roles in the district.
Johnson, who has been with the district for 12 years, said he has known since middle school that he wanted to be a bus driver. He remembers how one of the bus drivers, Harold Helm, made him smile, laugh and reassured him everything was going to be OK when he struggled.
Johnson said his work as a bus driver is paying forward the kindness he received from Helm. Every year, Johnson makes sure to learn the names of the students on his routes and is always quick to give a high-five or a fist bump.
"I'll do what I can to brighten up their day and turn things around," Johnson said.
Farley has been with the district for 17 years. Before that he operated his own auto repair business, Farley Automotive, for 20 years in Saumonauk, where he still lives.
Farley said there isn't really any prep work he can do to prepare for his national competition in November. He advanced to nationals for two years straight in 2008 and 2009, and he finished in fourth place both times.
"It's just knoweldge of skills gained from years of studying and experience," Farley said.