The little ones, the big ones, the good ones, the naughty ones, the funny ones, the surly ones. Yolanda Imbriano — who at age 100 has just now stepped down from her position as a bus monitor in the Oceanside Central School District and did so only because of COVID-19 — has not only worked with every type of student imaginable, she can tell you a story about almost every one, as well.
“I loved them. And they loved me,” said Imbriano, as she sat in the backyard of her Long Island home recently, reflecting on a career that spanned 55 years at Oceanside. “They were like my babies. Holidays and Christmas, they all got gifts from me.
“I did summer school, too, and I had this one kid, Brian. The father was a fireman and the mother was a teacher. In the summer, I’d see the father dragging his son to the bus. He didn’t want to go to school. So I’d meet his dad at the door and say, ‘I’ll take care of him. Don’t you worry.’ He would sit alongside me on the bus, and I’d say, ‘Brian, what’s wrong with you? Come on, we’re gonna go to school. We’re gonna play in the school yard. We’re gonna have a lot of fun. Come on, let me see ya smile.’ And he’d just sit there and look at me. But, by the end of summer, he started to smile. So, the mother, she hands me (a card) and she wrote, ‘Mrs. Imbriano, you are the only one who made my son smile.’”
Like Brian all those years ago, Imbriano smiles herself at the memory.
“I loved working,” she said. “I loved the children. I loved that I was helping someone.”
Imbriano started helping students at Oceanside in 1965. At first, she worked as a lunch monitor, then a monitor in the school yard and finally a bus monitor. A NYSUT member, she joined the union in 1983 — a move she says helped bring her better pay.
If it weren’t for the coronavirus, she’d still be working today, she said. But her doctor advised her it would be best to no longer do so because of the potential health risk.
Before the pandemic hit, forcing the closure of schools in March, Imbriano — even at the age of 99 — would rise at 5 a.m. The school bus would pick her up at 6:50. She’d work until 9:45 a.m., take a two-hour break and then go back to work until 4 in the afternoon.
When asked what she attributes her longevity to, Imbriano smiled and said: “Olive oil, a glass of red wine every night, and I never smoked.”
“You know, I wanted to work,” she added. “You couldn’t keep me down.”
In fact, she said, if it was up to her, she’d continue working in her retirement with students on a volunteer basis.
“I would go to the church. St. Anthony’s. They have a kindergarten. But I can’t (because of the coronavirus). The children — it’s not fair to them. It’s not fair to me. I don’t want any money. I just want to keep moving.”
So, not one to just sit at home, she recently went on a bus trip with some senior citizens. And what did she do?
“I helped them on and off the bus,” she said laughing.
Of course she did.