The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Terry Bonny receives traffic safety award


November 16, 2017

Diana Zimmerman

Terry Bonny was recently named the Washington Traffic and Safety Education Association Teacher of the Year. Bonny has been teaching driver's ed for 17 years. Before that, he taught several subjects at Wahkiakum School District for 36 years, including an occasional art class. His artistic gift is evident in the bedroom that he decorated for the grandkids, with Disney characters on the wall, including all 101 dalmatians.

Terry Bonny was recently named Teacher of the Year by the Washington Traffic and Safety Education Association.

"I guess it's for longevity and perseverance and all that," Bonny joked. "Luck, maybe."

Bonny can usually be sighted in the passenger seat of a green station wagon making the rounds around town, as students practice parallel parking, other maneuvers, and just get comfortable with driving.

After graduating from Eastern Washington University, Bonny taught at Wahkiakum School District for 36 years. He taught sociology, psychology, science, history, PE and art. He also coached football, basketball, and track at one time or another.

"That's one neat thing about working in a smaller community," Bonny said. "I got to teach a lot of different things. All of those experiences were a lot of fun. I had the entire PE program by myself, so I modeled it, adjusted it and changed it. Administration let me have a free hand. I was able to do a lot of stuff that I wouldn't have been able to do at a bigger school."

When he retired 17 years ago, he started teaching driver's education. Bonny received certification to teach the program through Central Washington University.

"Dr. Ron Hales was the professor that ran the program there," Bonny said. "He is nationally renowned in traffic safety education circles. In fact, at the time, Washington state was the model of what traffic safety education classes should be like."

Bonny still marvels that he is teaching driving to the grandkids of kids he taught and coached years ago.

"I like to stay with the kids, meet the kids," Bonny said. "That keeps me going."

He's also pretty sure that he took the job for self preservation.

"I knew I'd be on the road with them," he laughed.

Driving is a serious matter, a point that Bonny is always trying to impress upon his students, and he uses their own environment to do so.

"I particularly like to stress their interactions with logging trucks," he said. "Don't pull out in front of them and make them slow down or stop. Ocean Beach Highway is dangerous enough."

"We don't have stoplights, we don't have access to a freeway," he added. "I think it's proven out over the years, that kids go from here to more complex driving situations and freeway driving. They take it incrementally. They progress and do pretty well, for the most part. You can't do anything about judgement. People still make bad judgements, like drink and drive, or distracted driving, but you look at our kids and for the most part, their track record is pretty darn good."

There's the usual stuff when students first get in the car. Invariably they'll step on the gas pedal when they want the brake pedal. Sometimes he gets students who don't know the gas from the brake from the turn signal. Other times he'll run into a student who has already done a lot of driving and has a lot of bad habits.

"I watch for them to do crazy things," Bonny said. "After they start proving that they're doing things like they should, like anticipating, you start relaxing a little. Then they'll do something like blow through a stop sign. That's when I step on my brake."

Which always gets a startled response.

One of his students, many years ago, struggled to parallel park.

"I kept working with her," Bonny said. "Finally, she pulled into a spot, and everything was good. I was looking at her, and she realized what she had done, and smiled at me, then hit the car behind us."

He laughed. Apparently his former student likes to tell that story as well.

And yes, quietly, he checks on his former students. He looks at the paper to see who has gotten tickets, or for collision reports. He might even ask a parent now and again.

Probably because they're the grandkids of the kids he first taught when he moved here, the great grandkids of the people he first called friends.


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