France Honors Kolter Teacher With Award Established by Napoleon

Kolter Elementary School French teacher Claire Frazier was decorated as a chevalie (knight) in the Order of the French Academic Palms by French Cultural Attaché Sylvie Christophe on Nov. 20. The ceremony was attended by HISD Trustee Mike Lunceford, Kolter Principal Stephen Shetzer, French Deputy Attachés Diana Kruger and Laurianne Blandel, Frazier’s family and friends, and her fellow teachers and their students.

The prestigious award, which was established by Napoleon in 1808, is the oldest nonmilitary decoration in France and recognizes those who have made extraordinary contributions to promoting French language and culture. Frazier was nominated by the French Consulate 15 months ago, but France’s State Department of Education makes the final decision, and then the decree must be signed by the prime minister.

“Madame Frazier is being recognized for being a generous and creative educator,” said Christophe, before pinning the purple and silver medal on Frazier. “She is eager to share her ideas and knowledge with others, and she is passionate about teaching.”

“I believe that I was awarded this honor because I have always reached out to the community and extended my teaching beyond the classroom,” said Frazier. In addition to teaching French for the past 10 years at Kolter, she worked with the Consulate General of France in Houston to organize free summer camps for outgoing Kolter fifth- and sixth-graders in 2010 and 2011.

Frazier also created an afterschool class for native French speakers. “It was my desire to see that students with a French-speaking parent be exposed to French in a more in-depth situation,” she said. This class inspired the French consulate to start a citywide afterschool program called Education Française Greater Houston (EFGH). Frazier served as curriculum coordinator for the first six months of the program.

The award now runs in the family. In 1964, Frazier’s grandfather also received the medal of Chevalier and then was named an Officier in the same Order of Academic Palms. “This made the award that much more special,” said Frazier. “My grandfather was a high school drafting teacher and very humble.” She didn’t learn about his decoration until she read his obituary five years ago.

The awards ceremony included the singing of the French National Anthem, a performance by the Johnston Middle School Dance Ensemble, and a French song performed by Frazier’s students dressed in French-style outfits and berets.