Gonzales native Lynda Kridler Frazier went to school to be an accountant. But that’s not where her career ended up going.
Frazier just retired from her 27-year stint as a teacher in the Gonzales Independent School District.
Frazier said the decision came both as her family needed her around, and COVID-19 posed a lingering threat.
“My daughter and my family are in a place where they could use me more often as a homebody, and school has always been, well, these last probably 10 years, it's been pretty demanding on my time,” Frazier said. “I thought maybe for my own safety and health, it might benefit my family, I have four grandchildren, and my husband and his parents live here. We're around them all the time. I thought maybe I should do something a little bit more low profile and try to stay away from COVID.”
Frazier and her family, husband Stewart Frazier, Jr own Frazier Poultry and the recently closed St. George Deli, among other businesses. She said her original plans were to work at the deli after retiring, as well as celebrating her retirement and 35th wedding anniversary with a trip to Italy, but COVID-19 forced a change of plans.
“We've already been east and seen a lot of history out east,” Frazier said. “And so my goal is to go west. And I think we could do that pretty safely even during COVID if we're careful. We don't have to get on the airplane, we can drive. So maybe that will happen this summer.”
Beginnings and endings
Frazier said her career in teaching began when, during her time as an accountant at Southern Clay, her mother’s neighbor, current GISD Board of Trustees member Sue Gottwald urged her to seek her certification and begin teaching alternative education.
“She's the one that asked me to go into alternative education and said, ‘you can be certified in a year, you already have everything else you need,’” Frazier said. “She said, ‘Hey, I need you in education, and your family will get to see more of you. You'll get great holidays,’ she was selling it really hard.”
She began teaching at the Gonzales Alternative School, where she taught Fifth Grade math, and then the same for seventh through twelfth grade. Following a year’s gap to work on the poultry farm after securing the property, Frazier returned to teaching math to sixth graders at North Avenue Intermediate. After taking a Social Studies and Math RTI (Response to Intervention) position, staffing changes had her teaching sixth grade math simultaneously until about halfway through her final semester when another teacher was hired.
“So about October, I started sneaking out of the math classroom and back to the math RTI room and asking for groups,” Frazier said. “Which is really what I like to teach, small groups. You can really help kids I was being able to work with kids across the hall, that they would come to me and legitimately they want help, and they want to thank you. And that's how it was when I was at the alternative campus.”
Having considered pushing her retirement back, Frazier said she moved forward with the current timing of her retirement out of caution.
“I was really worried about retirement because then I thought, ‘well, maybe I shouldn't leave at Christmas. Maybe I should stay till May,’” Frazier said. “And my family just said it's time, you need to leave even if it’s for safety reasons. And I know the school is doing everything they can and it's not If it gets them, it's just COVID and general safety, because I think the school has been doing an excellent job.”
During the pandemic
When the Spring 2020 semester was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Frazier found herself teaching her students remotely while managing her homebound grandchildren.
“Everybody had to come up with a whole new schedule,” Frazier said. “I had to schedule my time, had to be open to all my students. I had to be able to keep four kids settled and busy and playing and not pulling each other's hair out and squeeze in their homework as well. And have time for my zooms. And all of the above.”
Frazier said her proactivity in communicating with parents over the years came in handy. When students weren’t submitting assignments or otherwise holding up their end of remote education, reaching out to parents tended to help.
Her advice to parents and teachers is to maintain a similarly open means of communication, to present a united front between teacher and parent.
“If you can figure out where a family and where the kids are coming from, you meet them there, and you have to be open,” Frazier said. “Not every kid is the same and not every family situation is the same. And then on the parent side, parents need to know that they need to reach out to the teacher, it can't always be the teacher who does all the reaching out. Parents need to really be involved in what their kids are doing.”
Frazier said a supportive relationship between parents and teachers helps with student success and transparency, as well as the teaching of respect and responsibility.
“When you say, ‘I'm going to pick up the phone, don't make me call,’ And they go, ‘oh, no,’ you know that you've done well, because you know that the parent is on your side,” Frazier said. “You want them to respect the fact that the phone call home, the text home, means that their parent is going to know. That's a good thing, because that means the parent is backing you up. The best thing a teacher can have is parental backup.”
More than math
As an educator, Frazier said the lessons she felt charged to teach weren’t just about math. Teaching boundaries, respect, and what kinds of options were available both in and out of Gonzales.
“I was also teaching them how to be responsible to themselves or to their community, always really stressed that education can get you anywhere,” Frazier said. “I said, ‘Now, I'm not a good example of that. Because here I am still in Gonzales, however, and if I wanted to go somewhere else, I could have. But my choice was to stay here and give back to the community with my family.’”
By instilling a desire to pursue higher education or seek professional training— even right here in Gonzales, at the Victoria College Center which was started by her sister Jackie Mikesh— Frazier said she hoped to help increase their options.
“I always would tell them that with an education, you can go anywhere,” Frazier said. “But if you don't get educated, you were so limited. And we would talk about and go on field trips and look at things and I would tell them, you know, you can leave Gonzales and then work if you have an education. And then you can always come back later if you choose to.”
Frazier said her own experience of living in Gonzales her whole life, having commuted each day to Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, allowed her to meet her students where they were and show them what they could achieve.
“I told them an education is what opens doors for you,” Frazier said. “Even if it's just a high school education. Because in Gonzales you have to be real cognizant of some of the families that don't have kids that ever graduated high school, and less talk about going to college. And when Victoria College was here, it was so easy then to bounce off of that and say, even if you're not ready for four years, there's a two-year university right here in our town.”
Some of the ways Frazier encouraged her students to give back to the community or get out of town were through the academic competitions held at University Interscholastic League meets, the Anchor Club, and volunteering efforts.
With the Fall 2020 semester being her last, Frazier said there are things she is looking forward to, like spending time with her grandchildren and engaging her hobbies or working for any of her family’s businesses on a part-time basis.
“I'm looking forward to just knowing that I can not have to check my email every five minutes,” Frazier said. “And that I don't have to grade papers anymore. And I don't have to write lesson plans. And those are things that I'm really looking forward to school wise, family wise, is just that relaxed factor where I can be asked to do something and the answer can be yes.”
The friends that she’s made at work, the sense of family gained from working so closely for so long, and her students will be missed.
“What I know is I will miss is my work family,” Frazier said. “I will miss the kids because being current, the silliness and them telling me about all the most modern things on the radio, the TV, all the catchphrases, you know, my grandkids aren't quite that old yet. I'll be out of date.”
Frazier said that after a year passes in January 2022, and she is eligible to work for the district on a part-time basis without it affecting her retirement, she is planning on returning as a substitute teacher and to assist with test proctoring.