2 educators’ experiences lead to creating podcast

Partners Rod McCall, Bryce Runge join forces to ‘inspire’ those around them

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Sofia Ayala

During an interview in Rod McCall’s classroom, he and Bryce Runge talk about their life experiences, and how this led to them creating a podcast. “Bryce and I have had quite a journey, filled with many good and bad experiences,” McCall said. “With a combined 50 years of experience working with young people, we have always sought ways to share our stories in a way that would ultimately provide hope and empower others to thrive.”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Putting their headphones on, Rod McCall and Bryce Runge lean into the microphone and press record. They have one goal: inspire others. 

Runge and McCall have worked in the district for 10 years. Runge is the Hope Squad adviser at Reynolds Middle School, and Mr. McCall teaches 12th grade government at Prosper High School. They met 10 years ago at a staff member’s holiday party – Runge worked in the ISS room, while McCall taught in the social studies department. Now, the two host the “Home Sweet Home” podcast together.

“We went to a Christmas party, hung out, chit chatted,” McCall said. “Got to know each other, and we’ve been good friends ever since.”

McCall and Runge wanted to start a podcast because of their “unique background” and the challenges that they’ve both faced in life.

There are always challenges. I don’t think any of us are very ‘techy’ individuals. I think we have a great vision of what we want to do, and we just started throwing spaghetti up against the wall. We watched some Youtube videos. We knew enough. We just bought some stuff, plugged it in and started recording.”

— Bryce Runge

On Oct. 21, 2011, McCall received news that he was finally going to get custody of his child, Eryk McCall. He was going to get full guardianship of his son, while his ex-wife, Hayslett-McCall’s, rights were terminated.

“The ‘quiet, late-morning air’ gave into the splitting sound of three gunshots. Karen Hayslett-McCall had shot 8-year-old Eryk twice, then turned the gun on herself,” senior Gabriella Winans said in an interview with McCall, “killing them both.”

The full article on McCall by Winans can be found here.

“No one had to tell me what my soul already understood,” McCall said. “Eryk was gone.”

Runge’s personal experiences include academic struggles and deficiency of direction, which enable him to connect and transmit inspiring messages that can relate to people, regardless of their age. In his book, “Wake Up, Wake Up, Wake Up,” more can be found about his story.

“We started a podcast because of the journeys me and Mr. McCall have been on,” Runge said. “And, to try to see how can we help others with it.”

McCall said Runge came to him with the idea.

“A few summers ago, we sat down to examine ways to bring our vision alive,” Runge said. “We discussed what influences family dynamics and the vital need for communication, connectedness and conflict resolution.”

It was then when they discovered that podcasts reach about 90 million Americans each month.

“Well, you (Runge) brought it up, and you said, ‘What do you think?’” McCall said. “And, I said ‘it’s genius,’ so the ball just started rolling from there.”

In this behind-the-scenes look at their Eagle Nation Online interview, Rod McCall and Bryce Runge talk about how their podcast started and their inspiration for it.

“Home Sweet Home” is available to listen to on Apple Podcasts or on Runge’s website, brycerunge.com.

“There are always challenges,” Runge said. “ I don’t think any of us are very ‘techy’ individuals. I think we have a great vision of what we want to do, and we just started throwing spaghetti up against the wall. We watched some Youtube videos. We knew enough. We just bought some stuff, plugged it in and started recording.”

Each episode is about 40 minutes long, and there are currently 15 available. 

“We had Mrs. Roskens here at the high school,” McCall said. “She provided a vast amount of information and suggestions.”

Lisa Roskens teaches journalism and advises the Eagle Nation Online staff at Prosper High School, and, with her help, McCall said he and Runge were able to release their podcast ‘Home Sweet Home.’ They released their first episode May 30, 2021.

“If you listen to the first episode, please hang on to the second and third,” McCall said. “It gets better”

Each episode connects with the next one, so it is suggested that the viewers listen in chronological order.

“It’s been a lot of trial and error of how to do things,” McCall said. “From our first podcast, we got some feedback from people we asked to listen. Toward our second and third podcast, we began to change and improve how we did the podcast.”

Both said that their podcast has allowed them to share their life experiences in ways “they didn’t think they could do before.”

“Mr. Runge is right,” McCall said. “We have had a lot of life experiences, and these life experiences have provided us with a unique set of insights that we kind of wanted to share with folks in a way we cannot do in the classroom.”

However, Runge and McCall said it can be difficult to find time to record their episodes. 

“I think our greatest challenge is finding the time,” Runge said. “Because we both have families, and a little bit different schedules, but when it’s summertime we can create as many as we want.”

The duo aims to publish weekly.

“We try to drop each episode Monday morning, but that hasn’t always been the case,” Runge said. “People that are in their cars can listen to that, and then they’re inspired. They are geared up and ready to go for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, that week, so, that was the main goal behind that.”

Runge and McCall have just wrapped their first season on their podcast, and are “eager” to begin recording again soon. 

“You think they are only 40-minute episodes, but it takes twice that long from set-up, to discussion, to taping to wrap-up,” McCall said. “It’s been a challenge. We did pretty good in the summer, and the first month of school, but then school began to kick in, demanding more time from both of us, and it became a little bit harder. So, we’re hoping that maybe during the Christmas break, we can get a few more going.”

McCall and Runge’s podcast has a rating of “5 stars” with Apple. 

“At the end of the day, it’s about life, and life is filled with challenges,” McCall said. “Whether you’re a kid living at home under mom and dad’s roof, or you’re a mom or dad trying to raise kids, life is filled with all kinds of surprises, ups and downs. Mr. Runge and I have experienced all sorts of ups and downs first as kids, and then as adults, and we wanted a way to share our own experiences with the world.”

Runge and McCall’s podcast enables them to share their stories in a way they never thought they could.

“The podcast enables us to share our stories, experiences and knowledge with hundreds of listeners,” Runge said. “Bringing families closer together, helping people overcome life’s challenges, and ultimately creating a ‘Home Sweet Home.'”