Bible teacher Bryant Russ was walking by his HCHS colleague Kevin Timmerman-Sánchez at the tech help desk one day a couple of years ago and had the same conversation that they always had:
“How’s it going, Kevin?”
“Good—how about you?”
“Good thanks…” when Russ suddenly realized “Hey— if we work here for 40 years, and have this same conversation for all those years, how sad would that be?!”
So Russ changed it up—“Hey, can I have lunch with you?” and then over that lunch learned enough about Kevin’s incredible life story to wish he had recorded the conversation. And then realized “Wait—we can! We can record those kinds of conversations! We have that kind of technology!”
It was the quiet genesis of HC Medium Talk Podcast.
Soon after that pivotal lunch, Russ was dropping off his eldest daughter at preschool for the first time, pondering “Who were these people I was just entrusting my kids with—the most valuable things in my life—and I don’t even know who they are?!”
And he wondered if other parents maybe felt the same way, and might be interested in knowing more about their kids’ HC teachers. He knew from his experience with his own HC colleagues what amazing and God-focused people they were, so really he wanted to “share their hearts, and put them on display—share those cool stories of how they ended up here in this school.”
Who were these people I was just entrusting my kids with—the most valuable things in my life—and I don’t even know who they are?!
So Russ started August of 2019 with an obvious person—his relatively new-to-HC principal, Deb Feenstra, who shared her story of working in the public school system for so many years, moving to do missionary work in Mexico, of her daughter with special needs who drew her into the HC community. And then just started asking people organically as he ran into them, or as they came to mind, if they would let him interview them for a podcast: Since Elle Nieuwsma ’12 was running the play, he thought of her. Or when he ran into Kevin Koeman ’98, or Dr. Bultman, or Julie O’Brien in the hallways, he would set up another interview to share their stories of how they were led to HC. And found them fascinating and inspiring conversations with first-rate committed Christian educators.
He’s been rejoicing that he doesn’t need to motivate the class with “points,” or grade repercussions, but instead is pleasantly stunned at how students are taking their ideas and running with them, emailing him at all hours of the day and night for his opinions, even on projects not due for several weeks. Showing up early before school to ask editing questions, and doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes, which Russ admits, surprised him.
“I’ve never sent so many emails saying that ’I’m so proud of you!’” Russ said, chuckling how he told a group of three boys to start with something easy and manageable to practice with podcasting, but “They did the exact opposite and created this elaborate game show!” he said of the March 17 podcast that contested Noah Kanis ’22 versus Principal Feenstra to see who knew more crazy facts about HCHS teachers.
He describes his job as “the guy on the side, rather than a sage on the stage,” a place he’s happy to be. “We have an authentic audience—over 20,000—which is such an important thing. Students know there are real people who listen, so this has to be good. And we have a real sponsor, Schippers Construction, for whom we have an obligation to fulfill.”