Kermit and His Frog
It’s no leap to say that Kermit McCarter’s pal Frieda is the National Education Association’s most famous frog.
This amiable amphibian was adopted in 1988 by McCarter, a retired South Carolina educator and longtime NEA activist.
Since then, Frieda, decked out in her festive ribbons and beads, has tagged along with McCarter to NEA Representative Assemblies (RA), drawing people to the booth where McCarter fundraises for his Orangeburg chapter’s scholarship fund. He sells old buttons and pins he’s collected from events years ago, when NEA members used to trade them.
At one such event, he says, “a women stopped me and said, ‘I’ll do anything if you’ll give me the frog.’ I have a price on her—$1 billion.”
McCarter figures he’s attended all but one convention since 1967, holding elected or appointed leadership positions in his local, state, or retired associations all the while.
“I guess I’m a glutton for punishment,” jokes the 73-year-old, who, when teaching, tirelessly devoted himself to his high schoolers, challenging them with notoriously tough standards, pioneering drama programs, and even driving cheerleaders to competitions as the only male cheer sponsor in the state. Though Frieda rarely came to school with him there, she had a special place in McCarter’s classroom when he taught in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in 2003.
“Every day she sat on the file cabinet. The one day I forgot her, one of the girls looked at me and said ‘Where’s Frieda!?’” he says.
Frieda’s wanderlust won’t disappear once she and McCarter tackle this year’s RA in Chicago—he fell in love with Thailand, so maybe he and his web-footed sidekick will be back.
For 16 years, I taught 5th grade at Brown Intermediate Center in South Bend, Indiana. Now, I am vice president of the St. Joseph County chapter of the Indiana State Teachers Association Retired. Retired: 2007.
How do you stay involved with education?
Every year, I mentor three or four students in Bethel College’s “Transition to Teaching” program for people who have come to education from other fields. I had one young lady who, as a student teacher, was placed in the classroom full time because the school was shorthanded. She had a class that would make even the most experienced teacher cringe! We were able to give her ideas for handling those students. For those first three weeks, she was so frustrated, but with support, she really blossomed and ended the year on a positive note.
In more than 40 years in education, I spent six as a principal, 12 as an assistant principal, and 10 as a guidance counselor. In the classroom, I taught American history and government. I was president of the Oklahoma Education Association for six years and am currently president of the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association. Retired: 2004.
What’s your best advice for educators preparing to retire?
Before you retire, make sure your finances are right. Listen to people who are already retired, prepare yourself years well in advance, and have your bills paid off. Know what your medical insurance situation is, because if you are not Medicare eligible, there will be a lot more expenses with prescription drugs. I’ve seen too many people retire and have to go back to working full-time because of health insurance costs.