(Interview) Dr. Kunnath, Club Advisor and English Teacher

Cazandra Manuel, Interviewer

Dr. Kunnath in his natural habitat

In this article we have an interview with one of Highland’s English teachers, Dr. Kunnath. Dr. Kunnath has been at Highland for 15 years, and in this interview we get to learn a bit about his experiences teaching here as well as his involvement in football before and while at Highland. In addition to teaching English, Dr. Kunnath is also the advisor for the Newspaper Club and we get to hear some of his thoughts on the club and his advice for it. Readers will also find a pair of book recommendations from the ardent reader who sets an annual goal of reading 100 books. Now, without further ado, here’s the interview.

Q: So, can you start off by introducing yourself?

A: Sure! I’m Dr. Kunnath and I teach AP English Language and 11th Grade CP. This is my 15th year at Highland

Q: So I’ve heard you’ve had a career in football and you used to coach. Can you tell us more?

A: I started playing football in junior high, and then I played in High School and then in college too. I played for a number of years, I played defensive end and I was in a pretty good football team in High School. And then I played in Michigan Tech University in college – a division two team – for five seasons

I coached for six years total. I’m from Michigan originally, so I coached there first. I coached at the school I went to and played at. And I coached here at Highland with Mr. Mathew and some of the other coaches who are still here

Here are photos of the teams Dr. Kunnath once coached. Certainly, they still hold very dear to his heart.

Q: And did you enjoy coaching?

A: Yeah! It was a lot of fun. I miss it a lot, but coaches put in so much time.

Q: Is that why you stopped?

A: Yes I just couldn’t do it… I couldn’t balance everything. In fact, I had to stop when I started my doctoral program at Fresno State. It was just impossible to do it all. So I stopped, I do miss it. But I hand it to coaches who do it because it was a lot of time.

Q: Why did you agree to advise the Newspaper Club?

A: I was a little bit hesitant, to be honest because I have a really busy schedule. The editor-in-chief was really ambitious and I thought it could be successful due to her plans. 

Q: And do you think it’s going well?

A: So far so good. This is the third week now, the readership looks pretty strong and articles are pretty good! There are a lot of people involved who are excited about it. I think it’s a really good start.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for it?

A: I do give suggestions here and there. I think everyone involved is doing a really good job. One of the things I would say is keeping an eye out on the bigger picture. It’s a marathon – not a sprint. We want to make sure it’s sustained. We do need to find someone who will take over this project in the years to come. So far everythings been really good and I really want to see it keep up!

Q: When does the Newspaper meet?

A: Wednesdays

In the classroom, there is a whiteboard that notes how many books he has read so far! Of course, there are books scattered about everywhere as well.

Q: What is a book everyone should read/your favorite book?

A: That’s a tough question! And it’s tough to pick a favorite. So I’ll go with one of my favorites – which I think people should read eventually, but perhaps it would not be for everybody as it is a bit challenging. The title is “Ulysses” by James Joyce, an Irish author. The modern library ranked it as #1 book written in the last 100 years. It’s a good book, a lot of really important themes and a lot of Irish culture. It’s really well written. It took him [Joyce] a long time to write it. It’s not for everybody, but for people who really like things like it. 

Q: What about a book you think everyone should read?

A: “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. Nonfiction book, a self-help book about being focused on the future. I think that would be a really good one for seniors to read. To be organized, to push yourself. Sometimes those types of books are very dry and hard to get through – this one is very readable. I’ve read it twice myself. It’s a great one to read in January when you’re thinking about making goals for yourself, new year’s resolutions. That’s one that comes to mind.

Q: Can you pull anything from that?

A: Goal setting and making goals that have a balance between pushing yourself and being do-able

Sharing goals, not keeping them a secret. A line between pride and ego. I think goal setting is a really good thing mentioned in the book.

Q: If there is one thing everyone should know about you, what would that be?

A: Education, whether informal or not, is really one of the most important things in everyone’s lives – that’s why I really became a teacher in the first place. I think it’s important to do something with your life that can make an impact that is lasting. I think that is really important.

Happy Veterans Day! Also — check out those books scattered along the whiteboard. Above, you’ll see many classics such as Huck Finn and The Great Gatsby~

Q: What is an achievement you are most proud of?

A: Well, one thing at the time, I was really proud about was the first time I had an article that was published. So I’ve been lucky enough to have several now but the first time that happened was really validating because I had been working on it for a while. Sometimes I wasn’t quite sure – like working on something or writing, I thought “How does this stack up against other people” or “Is this something of quality or not.” So I think the first time it happened was the moment where I was like Oh! That was really validating. Now I look back on that first publication and think ehhhh there could’ve been some things that were better and there were things that weren’t the best but that’s one that really sticks to my mind.

Q: Can I ask what it was about?

A: It was about grading and assessment research.

Q: If you could offer one piece of advice to juniors taking the AP Lang test this year, what would it be?
A: To become a good writer it takes time. It is also not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Doing a little bit over a long period of time is important. So writing something everyday – even as small as a sentence – creates those good habits. A little at a time really adds up for that big outcome. For AP Lang, you can’t just cram for it the night before “Oh let me just learn about English and writing!” It happens over time. Each day and each week just think about getting a little bit better. 

Q: How has Highland changed over the years from your perspective?

A: Highlands quite a bit different from when I first started in 2008. I think it’s gradually gotten bigger first of all – there were about 1800 kids when I first started, and now we have ~2700 kids. We have a lot more buildings. Highland’s gotten a lot better at sports because we used to be kind of a joke – an easy win for the other team. I think Highlands made a lot of improvements. Highland now really is the school students want to go to. It wasn’t really like that before – not to say it was a bad school before, but we’ve gotten to a whole new level now. I think academically, athletically, and in school pride too. I specifically remember my first year teaching – ASB would put up posters and they wouldn’t be up for more than like a day, kids would just tear ‘em down. Now – look at us now – we still have posters up and in teachers’ doors since the beginning of school. It used to be a day and now we’re months into it. School pride has really changed, it was like a 180, really big difference there, so really a lot of improvements.

Q: Ok, final question – what is Highland High School to you?

A: So Highland is the only school I’ve ever taught at and a couple of times I’ve thought of teaching at other schools and had opportunities to do that but I chose to stay here because I think Highland is an especially good school not just in this part of town but in all of Bakersfield. It’s a really good mix of students and there’s a lot of diversity and I think, for the most part, kids really get along and I think Highland is a place that gives a lot of opportunity for a lot of kids. That’s why I continue to stay here. I think it’s a place that gives opportunity and in a lot of ways kids get along well.

Q: All right, thank you! 

We hope that in this interview you learned something new about Dr. Kunnath, whether it be his experience with football or his commitment to education. On top of that, we hope it was interesting to hear about what makes teachers enjoy teaching at Highland and how the school has improved and grown over the years. Finally, thanks again to Dr. Kunnath and our lovely interviewer Cazandra for making this interview possible.

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