BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — When Ann Tubbs stepped onto a school bus in 1974, she had to muster as much muscle-power as possible just to drive it. “It had a great big stick on the floor, the brake was heavy, the clutch was terrible and that steering wheel was so tight,” she said. After much prodding from a friend, she had approached the school district about a job opening for a substitute bus driver. Her first boss, Jim Croy, took her out for her first test drive and although she lacked confidence in her ability to maneuver the big yellow bus, he was impressed with how well she did. “I’m looking at all this inside the bus and the length of it and I thought, ‘Am I crazy?’” she said. “But he told me I did real well for a first-time driver – even though I did grind the gears a few times.” She stuck with it, and within a few short months, was offered a permanent route. Now, after 44 years, she is retiring from the district. “I want to spend some quality time with my husband,” she said. For a majority of her career, Ann transported students with special needs. The relationships she has cultivated both with the students she transported and their families are what she will miss most when she is gone. “I have acquired a lot of friends,” she said. “Instead of a parent, I have more of a one-on-one relationship with them, and I’ve ended up with some really nice friends.” While the district has remained relatively the same throughout her tenure, significant changes have come in the way of improved facilities and equipment, especially with the buses. “They are so much easier to handle,” she said. All Maumee bus drivers are required to have a CDL or commercial driver’s license, Class B, with a passenger school bus endorsement. Before leaving the garage, drivers are responsible for conducting thorough inspections of their buses, including a 15-minute check of both the interior and exterior of a bus and its engine. The bus drivers in Maumee also spend an additional 25 hours driving and reviewing district policies and rules. No one in the Maumee district has been driving a bus as long as Ann, but she doesn’t think about that much. “Every year, I would just go to work. I wasn’t focused on how many years I would be there,” she said. Mary Bottoni, the Maumee district supervisor of transportation and food service, said that the parent of a student who graduated a number of years ago recently stopped by the bus garage to drop off a retirement gift for Ann. “So that goes to show how she has made a difference in the lives of many kids as well as many parents,” Bottoni said. As a result of her lengthy tenure, Ann has also witnessed many students transition from preschool to high school and sometimes beyond. The job has given her life lessons and lasting friendships, something she couldn’t have imagined when she first started driving a bus so many years ago. “It’s been quite an experience for me. At times it was very challenging, but it’s been very rewarding. I feel like I have been rewarded just from being around the kids,” she said. Ann’s last day on the job was May 31. In addition to her husband, Gary, her family includes four children, Gary Jr., Jeff, and twins Shawn and Dawn Tubbs.