Rural Education: What Lies Ahead?

In this edition of the Roundtable, host Tim Cavey connects with guests Kevin Van Lagen, Nikki Lavergne, Melody McAllister, Tammy G. Neil, and Dr. Casey T. Jakubowski to discuss the state of rural education today.

What are the WINS worthy of celebration in rural education? What are the biggest CHALLENGES that rural educators and learners face today? How is TECHNOLOGY changing the learning landscape? We get into all this and more in the course of this conversation.

Select any of the timestamps listed below to jump to specific portions of the discussion. ⬇️

Questions and Timestamps from This Conversation

  • 0:54 – Who is Melody McAllister?
  • 2:07 – Who is Tammy Neil?
  • 2:55 – Who is Dr. Casey Jakubowski?
  • 4:08 – Who is Nikki Lavergne?
  • 4:43 – Who is Kevin Van Lagen?
  • 5:25 – What are some of the best things about working in rural education? Let’s celebrate the WINS.
  • 12:18 – What are some of the greatest CHALLENGES facing rural educators and learners today?
  • 19:04 – Digital TECHNOLOGY apps and platforms have transformed K-12 learning in a very short number of years. What has been (and will continue to be) its impact on rural education?
  • 28:20 – What are the technology apps and tools that have really been SAVIORS for education during the pandemic?
  • 35:47 – What are some current PROJECTS or initiatives that you are excited to be recently finished or currently working on?
  • 48:55 – How can we CONNECT with you and join your learning journey?

Connect with These Rural Education Leaders on Twitter

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As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTubeFacebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific/11:00 a.m. Eastern. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!

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Episode 92 – Shane Lawrence

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Meet Shane Lawrence

SHANE LAWRENCE is a high school educator in Alberta, Canada who specializes in film studies and teaches digital media and art courses at the 7th and 8th grade levels. Shane is also the host and producer of The Ed Podcast

From Teaching on Fire to Burning Out

Shane recalls the year that the departure of a key partner in his school’s theater program left him directing West Side Story by himself. He was spending up to 60 hours a week on the musical alone, and life started to unravel. His family relationships struggled, his practice was impacted, and he was constantly drained of physical and emotional energy.

Eventually, he had to make the choice between the production – a source of deep passion and commitment – and his family. He chose his family, and he hasn’t directed a musical since that year.

Although he misses aspects of the work, he knows it was the right decision to step away. He doesn’t entirely dismiss the possibility of directing another dramatic production in the future, but if he does, it will be when conditions are right and he has the proper support structures in place.

The History and Mission of The Ed Podcast

Originally, Shane started podcasting for the fun factor. And it’s still fun today – he wouldn’t do this work if it wasn’t.

The mission of The Ed Podcast is to expand the conversation and thinking around education. When educators tune in, they can expect to hear casual, unscripted conversations with other educators about the things that they’re passionate about. “I want to edify the community of teachers so that we can all feel part of a whole and get better with each other, ” he explains.

Computer Classes

Shane is new to computer courses and is quick to point out that he is still learning and growing in this area himself. Some of the skills he teaches include hardware configuration and trouble-shooting, file management, cloud storage, coding (using KoDoo), and other applications in the Adobe and Google suites. At his school, grades 9 through 12 bring their own laptop devices to school, and his 7th and 8th graders can access Chromebook carts on a need basis. 

What Ignites Shane’s Practice: Professional Conversations

Although Shane sees himself as more of a slow burn than a raging fire, he finds fuel in the professional conversations. From his own faculty room to his podcast to the discussions on Twitter, he thrives on the exchange of ideas and topics that support continuous growth. Conversations and coffee: these are the two essential ingredients that keep his passions alive in education.

A Professional Goal

His most pressing area of growth in this coming year has to be his art courses. This is an area he’s new to, and he knows it will stretch him. Fortunately, his predecessors have laid out plans and resources in a path that he can follow. He knows he’ll be challenged, but he looks forward to that process.

Personal Passions Outside of the Classroom

“I like way too many things,” Shane declares. His interests include gaming, screenwriting, design, architecture, law enforcement, photography, and the list goes on and on. In an ideal world, he would love to get degree after degree after degree – he’s truly a lifelong learner.

Lately, he’s had a passion for the ukelele – something he’s wanted to come back to since childhood. He’s been practicing and improving his craft, and he loves to play it in the classroom while he talks with students. Shane is also a film aficionado, and he never tires of learning about this art form.

A Different Sort of Productivity Hack: Grace

This may not sound like a productivity hack, but Shane finds it crucial to give himself grace for his failures. Like many education professionals, he’s keenly aware when he falls short. It’s tempting to view himself as a failure or imposter, but grace allows him to dust himself off and remember that he’s on a continuous journey of growth.

Try again, learn some more, try again, learn some more … we don’t need to hold ourselves to perfection as long as we’re growing and improving.

Voices and Resources that Inspire His Practice

Over on Twitter, Shane recommends following @JennBinis. Jenn has been a guest on The Ed Podcast a couple of times already, and she never fails to bring a critical eye and insightful questions to situations and ways of doing things in education.

By way of edtech tools, Shane appreciates the features that Soundtrap, Splice, and Fusion 360 offered his learners last year. It’s clear that Shane is a fan of apps and technologies that allow students to create!

Shane’s pick for books is Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull. This title applies principles learned from the massive successes at Pixar to creative teams in other contexts.

One podcast near the top of Shane’s list right now include CBC’s Uncover, another awesome crime investigation show along the lines of Serial.

Two YouTube channels worth subscribing to include Smarter Every Day and Screen Rant. The former shares incredible scientific truths about our known world, and the latter delivers hilarious takes on popular films.

Although he doesn’t have much time for Netflix these days, Shane has enjoyed the Russian Doll series. It’s like Groundhog Day, although it goes in some darker directions than the Bill Murray classic.

We sign off on this conversation, and Shane gives us the best ways to connect with him and listen to his podcast. See below for more details!

Connect with Shane:

Song Track Credits

Listen on YouTube and subscribe to the Teachers on Fire channel.

Episode 17 – Caterina Rylance

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CATERINA RYLANCE is a middle school languages teacher and ESL coordinator at St. Theresa Catholic Middle School in Sherwood Park, AB, Canada.

Still in her second year of teaching, Caterina talks about how her writing at became a healthy outlet for her to reflect on the mix of frustrations and victories that come with becoming an educator. A Ukrainian folk dancer on the side, Caterina shares about the joy she finds in learning new languages and bringing the rich diversity of other cultures into her classroom. She also describes a personal habit that contributes to her success and gives us some great recommendations for books to read, Twitter accounts to follow, an edtech tool to use in the classroom, and more.

Follow Caterina on all these great platforms!

In this episode, Caterina discusses …

  • 1:06 – her current teaching situation
  • 3:00 – challenges she encountered in her first year of teaching, and how blogging formed part of a healthy reflective solution
  • 4:52 – her work with languages, cultures, and the pride she takes in helping to build the mosaic of the country
  • 6:18 – some of her other personal passions: learning new languages, travelling
  • 7:31 – a personal habit that contributes to her success
  • 8:29 – an educator to follow on Twitter: George Couros
  • 9:13 – an edtech tool to try using in the classroom: Pen Pal Schools
  • 9:47 – a book recommendation: Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess
  • 10:27 – what she’s watching on Netflix right now: Timeless

Song Track Credits

Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

LISTEN to this episode on YouTube and SUBSCRIBE for more episodes!

Episode 9 – Jade Ingels

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JADE INGELS is a middle school classroom and PE teacher at St. Theresa School in Wabasca, Alberta, Canada.

In this interview, Jade talks about a significant behaviour challenge she faced in the classroom as a first-year teacher and shares the keys to building a positive classroom culture. She also tells us why she’s passionate about project-based learning and offers some solid recommendations for books, edtech tools, YouTube channels, and more.

If you’ve got a comment or question for Jade, you can connect with her by email at

In this episode, Jade discusses …

Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

LISTEN to this episode on YouTube and SUBSCRIBE for more episodes!