Kathleene Runnels…The “Number Game” was not in the curriculum

I moved to Devine High School to teach because I needed to leave the politics of South San, where I had been teaching high school English – all four grades – for three years. When my husband mentioned to Dr. Charles Crouch, who was on the DISD school board at the time, that I was looking for a new school, he relayed that the high school was needing a freshman English teacher. I set up an appointment with the superintendent, Mr. Barnhart. That was 1975.
Even though teaching freshmen wasn’t my preference, the job was a refreshing change, (even the pay cut), as I found it a joy working with the teachers, administration, and students of Devine. Then, the next year, I was blessed to be able to move to the junior and senior levels.

Franklin and Kathleene Runnels at the Around the World party at the home of Suzanne Barber, 1981.

My first memories of DHS were of the teachers: Don and Gayle Sessions, Coach Jay Patterson, Dalees Moore, Brenda Gardner, Phil McAnelly, Mrs. Smith Moorehead, Dora Fernandez and JoAnn Bean.
I smile when I recall lunch in the cafeteria when someone harassed me, and I retaliated by “playing lookie” with my cherry cobbler. Don said he had thought me sophisticated until that moment! LOL.
Brenda and I connected right away, and our argumentative antics just about drove Mrs. Moorehead crazy. She often left the lounge, thinking we were fussing. We were just noisy. Of course, my most vivid memory of B.G. (Brenda Gardner), is, shall we say, her “raising her voice” at her students from her tiny journalism/English classroom in the Multiple Purpose Room next to the cafeteria downstairs.
My husband, Franklin, was a high school basketball coach at the time, so he loved visiting with the inimitable Coach Gayle Sessions, who, in the 70s, was already a legend. And he also enjoyed Coach Jay Patterson, having attended college with him at Sul Ross.
Because Franklin was in the coaching scene in San Antonio, he knew Rudy Davila, who was with the Spurs, which was owned at the time by Red McCombs. Thus, when Rudy reached out to Franklin about any jobs he knew of for a Spanish and history teacher, Franklin pointed them toward Devine. Red’s daughter, Marsha McCombs Shields, and her husband, John, were needing jobs, having just graduated from Duke University. And that’s how Marsha and John came to Devine to begin their short stint to the world of education.
One year, Marsha, plus the drama coach, Al Holman, and the typing teacher, Dalees Moore, and I shared the same conference period, and we had a blast while unsuccessfully attempting to use our time constructively. But hey, one does need a little levity. And we found just that by playing “The Number Game”. The loser had to buy sodas for the others. How do you lose? Well, the leader chose a number, somewhere between one and 100, and we went around the table, choosing a figure that we hoped was not the right one. “No; higher. No; lower,” until someone unfortunately guesses the number. The resulting shouts and hollers often brought principal, Mr. Groogan, into the lounge to see if the paintings were still on the walls! Over the years, Marsha and I, as with so many others I taught with, like B. G., Gayle, and Phil, have remained friends.
One of my greatest joys and memories is that the freshman kids I taught in my first year, I also had the honor of teaching in their junior and senior years. Those kids, the Class of ‘79, are so very dear to me. I often said that anything they didn’t know was on me, as I had taught them for three years!
Other student joys were my honor of being NHS sponsor and UIL poetry coach – where we always went to Regionals, thanks to students like Sherrie English and René Irwin. I was also Senior Class sponsor, which took me “Around the World” for five of my seven years at Devine. Of course the students did attempt to pull pranks on me like trying to throw me in the pool at Scott Weber’s home. Thank goodness I didn’t take off my camera, which they did try to get me to do!
I had my own pranks to pull. Like the year I had taken the NHS class to Schlitterbahn, and on the bus trip home, all chatter ceased when I pulled out my red nail polish and began to paint the toe nails of Kevin Graham, who was asleep in the seat behind me with his long leg and big foot propped on the arm rest beside me. The sudden hush woke him up. He still threatens to “paper” my house!
Every year I took the seniors to San Antonio to the public library for research for their term papers. (Remember, this was before computers and Google.) The library was located on the Riverwalk at that time, and I’m glad they didn’t include ALL their research on notecards!
I fondly recall taking Cindy Moeller home with me every Tuesday night during basketball season to “babysit” and stay the night while I went to Franklin’s games. What a great setup. We all rode back to school together the next day.
I remember the gentleman, Byron McAllister, who once threatened to beat up another boy who was rude to me. Then there was the time I threw an eraser at Ronnie Harrell – just funning – which he dodged. It hit the wall behind him. I guess I would be arrested for that today! I used to tease Carolyn Fargason by often smearing her glasses until one day when she licked her finger and smeared my cheek! Lesson learned! Frances Navarro adopted me as my other daughter! Rodney Scantlin adopted Franklin and me as our foster son for a short time. Cindy Minton and Jeanne Weaver gave me a Christmas decoration that I use to this day. It always makes me smile.
Since we lived halfway between San Antonio and Devine, Franklin and I began a tradition that lasted through our own kids’ graduation whereby we hosted a 3:00AM breakfast on prom night for the students who were typically traveling back to Devine from San Antonio. We felt that it got them off the roads for a break and gave them a positive activity.
As an English teacher, one assignment I required was that my students write three entries a week in a journal. This exercise was to help them in communication, mechanics, and grammar skills. They could write on any subject (so long as it was not about drinking, etc.), And I promised not to share anything that they shared with me. (And some of the things they wrote about were quite poignant.) The results were that, not only did it improve in their writing, but it gave me insights into their hearts. I found that, although I may not have approved of some student’s behavior, I learned to love each one unconditionally.
At the close of every school year, I wrote a poem to the senior class, often naming each student, highlighting in an amusing way how they fit into the group. I would read it to the class at graduation rehearsal. I got as much kick out of it as they did.
Teaching high school English had always been my dream, and I realized that dream in the most superb way at DHS. I loved my students and I loved teaching English. I left teaching in 1982 with the best of memories, and, even after 40-plus years, I always proudly identify with the role of high school English teacher who was blessed at having taught at DHS!