“A lot of ag teachers teach for a while and move on to other jobs, higher paying jobs. But I started at the top and stayed at the top. I truly believe there is no greater calling than that of a classroom teacher.”
Those are the words from Kevin Frazier, who started his 40th year of teaching agriculture this fall at Ponca City High School in northcentral Oklahoma. Although, he also admits he isn’t in the education business; he is in the kid business.
Frazier grew up on his family’s farm outside of Tonkawa, Okla., just 10 miles from Ponca City, and as a youth assumed he would return to that family farm when he got out of school. But, one class and one teacher changed his mind and his future his first year of high school.
“I stepped into my freshman ag class back in 1971, and met a first-year ag teacher, and it didn’t take me long and I knew I wanted to be an ag teacher too,” Frazier said. “His name was Mr. Danny Wedel, and I was his first student to become an ag teacher.”
Students are the highlight of Frazier’s day and his career. He looks forward to each school year starting with anticipation of welcoming students into his classroom. This school year alone, he teaches nearly 150 students each day. And, the worst days for him are when the students are not there.
“There are lots of tears at the FFA Banquet each spring when we say good-bye to the seniors. We are more than just classes; we become a family,” he said.
Family and community are important to Frazier, who has taught two generations of several families during his time at Ponca City. He said he is just about four years away from teaching the third generation of some families. Although there are family farms around Ponca City, the area is highly populated, making the school district a 6A school – the largest designation in the state. Since there is such an urban influx, Frazier said the FFA Chapter’s primary focus is on community service and promoting agriculture. He is proud of the way his students learn about agriculture, where their food and fiber come from and how to share the ag story with others through public speaking.
The Chapter sets up petting zoos at various fairs, community festivals and school events to continue to spread the ag message on to others.
Frazier is proud of his students that have continued the tradition of becoming ag teachers. In fact, one former student, Dr. Jon Ramsey, is now Associate Professor, Director of Student Teaching & Undergraduate Advising Coordinator: Agricultural Education at Oklahoma State University.
“My proudest moments in teaching happen every day when I’m in the classroom with my students and one of them gets that look in their eyes like they’ve finally made a connection to the concept I’m teaching, and they get it,” he said.
The situation might be a little different at Ponca City than at most high schools. The Ag teaching facility and farm is five-miles from the high school so every one of his students is bussed out for class each day. Subsequently transportation cuts into class time, and with students who are eager to learn, they jump right in when they get to class. Frazier doesn’t have discipline problems with his students. Since ag is an elective, most of the students have chosen to be there. He makes his expectations known early on, treats his students with respect, and in return, they reciprocate the respect. The only way a student will be dismissed from one of Frazier’s classes is if he or she fails to memorize the FFA Creed; an assignment he gives at the beginning of the first semester that is due at the end of the semester. Even if a student attempts it and needs help in a few places, he will let them stay.
“My students either love me or they hate me, but they know that if they do what is expected of them and respect me and the school, I will respect them. I just treat them like people, not students, and then they act like people. I make sure these kids see that I care about them, and in turn, they want to make me proud,”
And Frazier makes every effort to make sure “his kids” know he cares. In one week, he will attend a JV football, softball, and volleyball games. Not because he loves the sports, but because he loves the FFA members playing those sports and those who are cheering or playing in the band at those games. He wants the kids to know that he supports them in every activity, not just those in his classroom.
Forty years is a long time to do one thing. Frazier said he his decision was easy – he just combined the two greatest things in the world – kids and agriculture. There’s no doubt that he’s #AgProud.