Joe McNulty was going to be an accountant, but after 57 years working for the Gardner Edgerton School District, he’s glad it didn’t work out that way.
A Coffeyville, Kan. native, McNulty started his teaching career in the school district in 1956.
“I started teaching out of junior college,” he said.
Schools were short of teachers, and McNulty was allowed to teach with only 60-hours of college. He had to return to college each year and get eight hours of class to maintain his license. He thought he’d teach for two years, and then go back and get a degree in accounting.
“I loved (teaching),” he said.
His first year, he taught fifth graders. Two years later, he taught the same students in seventh grade. Those students, by the way, will celebrate their 50th class reunion this year.
McNulty, who retired from teaching and coaching in 1994, has run the school district’s mail route ever since. He logged his last mile on the route on Jan. 27. The district hosted a reception for his 57 years of service on Jan. 24.
For the majority of his career, he taught math to junior high students. Many recall getting caught passing notes, and then having to sit on one another’s laps in McNulty’s class as punishment.
“You can’t do that anymore,” McNulty said.
Teaching junior high students required a variety of skills. Kids that age are ornery, he said.
“If you didn’t love them, you’d kill them,” he said. “The time you get them to high school doing the same things, it wouldn’t be forgiveable.”
School has changed a lot in the 57 years McNulty worked for the district. The high school had 119 kids in it when he started with USD 231. Today, there are more than 5,200 students district-wide.
“It’s gotten lot bigger,” McNulty said. “I think the relationship of people in the district is a lot less personal. We were all together then. Now, it’s stretched way out. It’s less personal amongst the administration and the people in the field.”
Two generations of students learned math skills from McNulty. The great people he worked with made it difficult for McNulty to consider teaching somewhere else.
“I had a great superintendent in Ted Parry,” he said. “And he was followed by a great superintendent in Gary George. The people were important to them, and they made the teachers feel important.”
McNulty counts former teacher Gene Wilmouth as one of the distict’s great assets. Wilmouth retired from teaching the same year McNulty did, and Wilmouth died a few years ago.
“He was a very important partner to me in my teaching years,” McNulty said.
In addition to teaching, the duo also coached a variety of interscholastic sports. McNulty coached track for 29 years, basketball for 24 years and football for nine years.
McNulty has stayed involved in middle and high school sports, and attends nearly every event.
His dedication to school athletics earned him a place in the Gardner Edgerton High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
Life will probably be slower for the former math teacher and coach. On his first day of retirement, Jan. 28, McNulty worked through a list of honey-dos.
“I’ve chopped up some vegetables, and I’ve stored some jars away and I’m getting ready to do some vacuuming,” he said.