KINGFIELD – When Fulton Ryan first took to riding shotgun for young drivers, he never dreamed he would still be teaching driver education 32 years later.

This fall session at Mt. Abram High School in Salem, with 13 students, marks something of a milestone for the 67-year-old retired teacher.

“The guidance counselor at Mt. Abram, Elwood Allen, asked me to help out back in the early ’70s,” Ryan recalls. “I said I would do it for one year, and I’m still there. I enjoy it.”

Ryan began by teaching world geography and civics at Mt. Abram, a job he enjoyed for 36 years. He put the driver education hat on after several years on staff, a move that assured he would be a very busy man. After teaching classes all day, he would conduct the driving classes after school, both in a classroom and on the road. So many years and hundreds of students later, Ryan has many stories to tell; some funny, others nerve wracking, but all successful.

Ryan recalled that as a young man, he had a friend who was told by a driver education teacher that she would never be a good driver. The friend took that statement to heart, has never had a driver’s license, and the memory sticks to Ryan this day.

“Maybe she was nervous, maybe she made some mistakes, but to tell her she would never be a good driver, to just give up?” Ryan asked. “That’s unthinkable.”

As a result of his friend’s unfortunate experience, Ryan himself is more patient with his own students.

“Most students are really good,” he stated. “Almost all of them are nervous but they try to do it right. It’s the trying, and succeeding, that I find fulfilling.”

He admitted that other drivers on the road are often more nerve wracking than anything his students may do in the car. After teaching driver education for 20 years, he took a four-year break. In just that relatively short period of time, he said, he could not believe how crazy things had gotten out on the road.

Ryan says he’ll continue to keep up with the times and meet new challenges as they appear; one student, one new driver’s license at a time. He may ride in the right hand side of the front seat, but rest assured, he is well established in the driver’s seat, as well.