When Ted Coulter first became interested in teaching reading, some of his colleagues laughed at the idea.
But Coulter, who retired this week after 44 years of work in education, including 21 at Haskell Indian Junior College, continued to believe that teaching reading was a worthy pursuit.
In 1967, Coulter presented a paper to the National Junior College Reading Assn. about how he would go about teaching reading. A few years later, in 1972, he received a federal grant to develop a reading class for Haskell, a Bureau of Indian Affairs school.
Since then, Coulter has established or helped establish reading classes for junior colleges throughout Kansas and in Florida, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Oregon.
Coulter, 66, retired Thursday. He said he will miss the work but looks forward to having the time to go fishing.
Coulter said working at Haskell gave him experiences he would have missed in public schools.
"I'VE ENJOYED it very much because I've been able to do a lot of things," he said while his wife, Shirley, also a reading instructor at Haskell, worked in the background.
When Coulter came to Haskell in 1971 from Dodge City, his first "detail" was to go to the Blackfoot reservation in Montana, where he established a Head Start program, taught reading and supervised reading instructors hired through the extension program.
During his tenure at Haskell, he's visited several reservations, doing consulting work for reservations "from Florida to Washington."
"I've traveled quite a lot," he said. Before Coulter came to Haskell, he taught in Stockton, Lyons, Hutchinson and Dodge City. During his time in Dodge City, Coulter was one of 48 educators selected to teach adult basic education through a program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Throughout his career, Coulter has taught at every level from grade school to college graduate programs.
"I GUESS I'M lucky enough to be one of the few to teach at all levels," said Coulter, who received a bachelor's degree from Northwestern State University in Alva, Okla., for his studies in history and sociology, a master's degree in administration from Fort Hays State University and a specialist degree in reading and reading consulting from Fort Hays State.
Coulter also did some postgraduate work at Kansas University.
He was originally brought to Haskell as a consultant, but the school was interested him as a teacher, and Coulter was interested in working at what he believes is one of the best junior colleges in the United States.
As many as 200 students took reading and study skill classes each semester at Haskell, Coulter said. Coulter's wife taught five sections, and Coulter taught four and a vocabulary class.
HE SAID THE reading and study skills classes focused on "how to comprehend and study. . . . If they (students) comprehend, then they know how to study."
Coulter has presented his work at various organization's conferences, including the National Reading Assn., International Reading Assn., Coalition for Indian Education and the Native American Indian Assn. He also co-authored several papers with colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder and KU.
Coulter's work at Haskell was not all academic, however. After classes, he coached golf and served as an assistant basketball coach. He also recruited students and football and basketball players.
He said he enjoyed the multicultural atmosphere of Haskell, where more than 139 tribes were represented during the fall semester. Coulter, like many Haskell staffers, said people often don't understand that there's no such thing as a Native American culture. Rather, each tribe is its own culture.
COULTER EXPECTS to keep involved with Haskell. He also plans to pursue his hobbies fishing and hunting.
He said he experienced an empty feeling Thursday when he said goodbye to teaching.
"You just stop to think about it and say to yourself, `What am I going to do?'" he said.