Charles Schroeder came to Taylor High School in 1971 to accept a job as a drafting teacher. The principal at the time was Howard Oliphant, the assistant principal was Ross Baldwin, the counselor was Frances Lee and the vocational director was Tommy Wyche. Based on a recommendation from Southwest Texas State University, Schroeder was hired without an interview.
“I was hired sight unseen from Southwest Texas because my major was industrial arts,” Schroeder said. “One of the things in industrial arts is drafting, and Taylor needed a drafting teacher.”
Schroeder moved to Taylor and rented an apartment in a house behind Reichenbach Grocery Store. Prior to the days of cell phones, Schroeder doesn’t even remember having a landline phone at the time. One morning during his first year of teaching, the alarm clock didn’t go off.
“I don’t know what happened, but one morning I woke up all of a sudden and I was late,” Schroeder recalled. “Tommy Wyche was my supervisor and he had taken over teaching my class. I came in late and said, ‘I am so sorry. I don’t know what happened, but it won’t happen again’.”
Schroeder remembers participating on the intramural teams with students, eating lunch with students at the picnic tables behind Wesley’s Store, and playing in the school’s kazoo band.
“It started out with about four or five members.” Schroeder said of the unique musical group. “We performed on the stage at what is now the event center. From what I remember, it had to be a talent show and several of my students in drafting got together and just did it.”
Schroeder soon went back to school to begin work on his master’s degree in counseling. When Naomi Pasemann left Taylor Middle School to fill the role of counselor at the high school, Schroeder was hired as the new middle school counselor. Over the next few decades, he has also served as counselor at Northside, West End, Twelfth Street, T.H. Johnson and the Opportunity Center.
Schroeder was working at Twelfth Street School in 1983 when the campus closed. He followed Principal Ivan Leschber to T.H. Johnson Elementary to serve as the counselor at Taylor’s newest campus.
“It was a brand new school,” Schroeder said. “I remember scheduling students and deciding which classes to put them in. Mary Lu Haase was the positive motivator. Whenever I needed a kid positively motivated, guess whose class I put them in. There were several students who needed what she gives, and it made a world of difference for that kid.”
In addition to his more traditional responsibilities as a counselor, Schroeder remembers taking in a few baby snakes that had hatched in the fifth grade science lab.
“Tim Crow had a pair of pet snakes, and when he left T.H. Johnson, he left a bunch of snake eggs in a Styrofoam chest,” Schroeder said. “In August, the eggs hatched and the custodians came and asked if I wanted the babies.”
Schroeder remembers the snakes being only three to four inches long, a cross between a gray rat snake and a corn snake, and they were striking at anything that moved.
“I took a Kleenex and put it over one of them and picked it up and put it in my hand,” Schroeder said. “It was fine after that. I did that with all seven or eight of them.”
Over the years, Schroeder has impacted the lives of thousands of students, working with individuals, small groups and visiting classrooms. He has conducted leadership workshops, sponsored numerous Red Ribbon activities such as Day of the Duck, helped his school team at the Relay for Life, and he has filled the role of attendance officer in looking for students who were not in school. Former students will likely remember the large colorful parachute activity that taught children the importance of working together.
Schroeder is also known for initiating therapeutic hands-on learning experiences where students feel productive and are comfortable in opening up and talking about whatever concerns they need help with. In his current role at the Opportunity Center, Schroeder has taught students how to grow vegetables and how to cook the produce they raised. He also taught them the canning process to preserve the surplus, including making pickles.
One of his favorite activities at Taylor Middle School was the annual Christmas breakfast that the principal and counselors prepared for the faculty. The tradition started with principal Larry Sutton, and Lindy Peterson was the other counselor on the team. Together they served breakfast to over one hundred people.
Known for his white beard, it has often been said that Charles Schroeder and Santa Claus have never been seen in the same room at the same time. When asked about this observation, Schroeder would only comment that Christmas is his favorite time of the year. In fact, he and his wife, Rois, got married on Christmas Day in 1971. They will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year.
He also said that people often call him Santa.
“The person that does my toenails calls me Santa, and he calls my wife Mrs. Santa,” Schroeder said with a slight twinkle in his eye. “When I go to eat out, kids look at me and tell their parents, there’s Santa. Some of those parents have been calling me Santa since they were kids.”
While the connection between Charles Schroeder and Santa Claus may remain a mystery, one thing we know for sure is that this teacher and counselor of fifty years loves his job and doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon.
“I love helping students to be successful, and having a student come back later and say that I made a difference for them growing up is the best thing,” Schroeder said. “If the district will have me, I’m not ready to leave yet. I’ve still got kids who need me. I’m looking forward to continuing what I’m doing now and helping kids be successful.”
Taylor ISD is hosting a reception for Charles Schroeder on Tuesday, May 4, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Main Street Event Center located at 3101 North Main Street. There will be a special presentation at 5 p.m. Masks are required.