Episode Show Notes
In this episode, Mike sits down with none other than Upper School teacher and coach John Salyer! John enthusiastically shares about his 35 years at SFC, some fond memories, and a behind-the-scenes look at SFC broadcasting and SFCtv. Get ready to laugh out loud as you enjoy this lively conversation between Mike Siciliano and John Salyer.
Mike Siciliano, Upper School Dean of Students, has a long history with Sante Fe Christian, sitting in several roles including alumnus, US history teacher, and football coach. As a student, Siciliano felt he had teachers and coaches who personally invested in him and made a huge difference in his life. Now, he tries every day to continue that legacy for current SFC students, live up to the standard his teachers set for him, and have a lot of fun.
John Salyer, started teaching at Santa Fe Christian in 1988. He loves teaching in Christian education, believing the next generation of leaders must be not only Godly men and women but individuals who can compete and succeed within a complex world. John mentors and guides his students, giving them real-world challenges in any class he teaches. John and his wife Gina have been married for over 34 years and are blessed with three children who have graduated from SFC.
00:01:21 – Introductions
00:01:07 – Roles John has had at SFC
00:02:56 – Discussion around start of SFCtv
00:05:41 – Amount of work needed to produce a broadcast
00:06:53 – Activity since pandemic began
00:07:22 – History of SFCtv and athletics
00:10:28 – Discussion of broadcast and SFCtv
00:13:43 – Number of students enrolled this year in broadcast class
00:16:40 – Why a student would benefit from broadcast or SFCtv after graduation
00:18:22 – Discussion regarding program where students interview guests about a controversial issue
00:20:37 – What John expects or hopes to see from students after completing program
Mike Siciliano [00:00:06] Welcome back to another episode of our Eagle Perspective Podcast. I’m Mike Siciliano, Dean of Students of the Upper School. I am joined today by the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. John Salyer.
John Salyer [00:00:18] You know him, you love him, you can’t live without him.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:20] Just so people know, you were my teacher.
John Salyer [00:00:24] Yes, I was. I was blessed to…
Mike Siciliano [00:00:26] You have a lot of dirt on me.
John Salyer [00:00:29] Yes. You have just as much on me.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:33] True. All right. Is there a mutual agreement?
John Salyer [00:00:35] Yes, mutual assured destruction. We’re going to keep it…
Mike Siciliano [00:00:38] That’s good. I would say I’m going to share this with our audience, that when I was going through my whole career thing of thinking about what am I going to do… Do you remember this?
John Salyer [00:00:49] I do.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:50] We went over there to Fidel’s, and I asked you about being a teacher, and you talked me into it.
John Salyer [00:00:55] I’m sorry about that.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:56] What were you thinking?
John Salyer [00:00:56] I know. I’m so sorry.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:58] Come on. No, I’m just kidding. It was the greatest decision of my life.
John Salyer [00:01:01] We were desperately in need of good godly men, and you were one of my top five…
Mike Siciliano [00:01:05] You couldn’t find any.
John Salyer [00:01:06] We found you.
Mike Siciliano [00:01:07] Yeah, that’s great. Well, you’ve had an amazing impact on this place. We’re going to talk today… Just to tease, we’re going to be talking largely about broadcast and SFCtv, which is the program that you started and are still running along with Amy Kennard and some others. But you’ve had a number of roles here. Why don’t you share with our audience when you came to Santa Fe and the various things that you’ve done here?
John Salyer [00:01:33] Eighty-eight was my first year. This is, what, 34 years?
Mike Siciliano [00:01:39] Yeah. I was five.
John Salyer [00:01:41] Shut up. I came over from the public school system. I had no understanding of how my in-laws were affiliated with the school. I just came over. John Couch called me. Had lunch at Fidel’s, and he hired me on the spot. Came and taught history, and coach football and basketball, and then ended up doing ASB, and chapels, and government, Bible, taught an English class. Oh, yeah, and then humanities, international relations, world history, government, econ, AP. I did a few things here and there.
Mike Siciliano [00:02:20] Yep. I would say that there is not really a student who’s been through our high school in the last 30 or so years who wouldn’t smile when your name came up. You can’t argue with me on that. You’ve had this energy. I know you’ve been in a place like this, especially for young men who are wrestling with all kinds of things. They come and talk to you.
John Salyer [00:02:43] That’s sweet of you.
Mike Siciliano [00:02:44] I remember the point man class.
John Salyer [00:02:45] The point man class. Yes, that was good. That was one of my favorite ministries I’ve ever had. Those were great moments.
Mike Siciliano [00:02:51] Awesome. One of our most beloved of all time.
John Salyer [00:02:55] Thank you.
Mike Siciliano [00:02:56] We’re going to focus today on broadcasting and SFCtv. I remember being a senior, and there was this new building going in. It was the library. They said there was going to be a broadcast studio. On my graduation day, the very first event in that library was a little appetizers before graduation so that we could see what we would miss to benefit from. Then I remember a couple years later I come back, and you’re down there running newscasts. Tell me about the start of all this.
John Salyer [00:03:31] Well, it’s interesting. I have no background. I’m a history teacher. I got a master’s in international relations. That was my thing, social science. A dear friend of mine, Dave Barclay, got sick and needed someone to help take over the computer classes. They were building the library. I was teaching history, and they put me in that building down there to teach, with all the new bells and whistles, advanced. I went into that area teaching history. In helping out Dave as he was sick, they talked about doing distance learning, because Jeff Woodcock was leaving to open Oaks. They gave us the cash to work that out, to build. We had a little seed money. I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t. I just have a lot of energy, and I brought us full speed into it. Amy Kennard, class of ’92, she has a background. She graduated. She worked in the industry, so she was going to handle it. I said, “Well, I know something about editing, a little bit. I’ve taken 15 minutes, but I have a lot of energy, and I’m willing to work.” As you know, I like to build things. I get bored, restless. So, I say, “Well, let’s do this. Let’s do a broadcast.” Then it went from once a week to twice a week. The idea was—and honestly, it’s always been—the broadcast is we tell stories. We love Jesus Christ, and we want our kids to be prepared, to be competitive and influential in the world, especially in the secular world. In order to do that, they have to know; they have to be prepared, understand, and articulate what they believe in, and how they get there and be able to use and utilize the tools, the cutting-edge tools. It was always important to me. I was always visiting other schools and just looking. What are they doing, and how can we get our kids in a position to be successful? Amy handles the little details; I handle the big pictures, and together we were a great team. We had a third wheel then, a guy named John Cale, who was an engineering guy. He lived in the analog world, so he was great to get us started. That was the birth of it.
Mike Siciliano [00:05:41] Of course, Amy’s still here working with you. You guys do an incredible job just watching from afar this program grow. It started with it was a whole bunch of… Tell me if I’m wrong. It was a whole bunch of work to do one broadcast a month. Right?
John Salyer [00:06:00] Yeah. It was a 10-minute broadcast. It was on, I think, Friday mornings if I remember. I would pull all-nighters on Thursday nights with John. We would be finishing the touches. It was really rolling a boulder up the hill. The kids were great, but in order for them to get where they wanted to be, it took time. People don’t understand. For every minute of finished video, it’s three hours of labor. We were putting on 10 minutes; that’s 30 hours. We only had them four hours a week in class. There was a lot of extracurricular work that these guys poured into.
Mike Siciliano [00:06:34] I’m just going to note. We obviously have a videographer for these podcasts. His name is David DeLauder. I’ve never seen him nodding so emphatically about the work that goes into video content. We love him.
John Salyer [00:06:45] It’s true. Am I right? They underestimate it. “That’s fine. Just go out and shoot a video for me and go home and edit it.”
Mike Siciliano [00:06:53] Well, it’s funny that you say it that way, though, because I feel like our broadcast program has grown quite a bit in part through exactly that. Maybe we can start with recent history, the pandemic happens. For us, it’s like, “Well, we have Sal. We have this great broadcast. We have these kids that know how to do this.”
John Salyer [00:07:14] Can you just have them go film this for us?
Mike Siciliano [00:07:15] Yeah, that’ll solve all of our problems. We started doing chapel every week.
John Salyer [00:07:19] Thanks for that.
Mike Siciliano [00:07:22] No, thank you. The speaker would come in every week, and we’d film it in front of our students. That was broadcasted into classrooms. We probably should talk about SFCtv and athletics.
John Salyer [00:07:37] That’s a side gig.
Mike Siciliano [00:07:38] When was the first football game?
John Salyer [00:07:41] When Chase McBride was playing his senior year, Isaac Boyd, Paul Kerwin… Would that be 2002? Is that the year after you graduated?
Mike Siciliano [00:07:49] Yeah. It would have been fall 2001, class of 2002.
John Salyer [00:07:53] Okay, that’s when it started. Unfortunately for you, it’s the Lucy/Charlie Brown…
Mike Siciliano [00:07:58] We are the reason for it all. We ushered it all in, and everybody got the fruits.
John Salyer [00:08:07] We were like, “Oh, good, they’re gone. Let’s do this.”
Mike Siciliano [00:08:00] Yeah, right.
John Salyer [00:08:09] No, that class, your class, is one of my top three classes of all time. Very, very close to you guys. You guys are blessings, by the way, you in particular. Now that we have mutual love, affection all that, what happened was a buddy of mine, the principal at the time, Clark Gilbert, said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun with all this equipment that we go film a game?” I’m like, “All right.” I didn’t know what I was doing. It was a 300-pound box that we had built. It was all analog and all cabled. John Cale was the cameraman, Clark was the play-by-play, and I did color. That was how it started. I was at a game one day, and I thought, “This is great for my kids. This will give them real-life experience.” Then I went and recruited a couple of kids—Eric Stenson and a couple kids out of that—and then brought them. It was for a while. Then Clark left, and Paul Clark came on. He left, and then I started thinking, “Wow, this is not part of the curriculum.”
Mike Siciliano [00:09:04] This could be a thing.
John Salyer [00:09:05] Right. It’s something special. It’s beyond just a project. This is a passion thing. I started having an eye towards wow, it takes organization. You’re telling a story. You’ve got to get an idea together and then tell it through film. Even if it’s a football game or a basketball game, you’re telling the story of a game. That’s where I started bringing kids in. Obviously, I had broadcast. Broadcast is different. Broadcast is a buffet of an experience. I love it for what it is. It’s fantastic. It’s real-life experiences. You’re working in groups of eight or nine people to create a project. There’s no excuses. Our phrase is adapt, improvise, and overcome, because there’s always something going to go sideways. That’s real world. You’re not always going to love everyone you work with, but you get to learn to work with people. You have to learn to find your skillset in that group. We have over 30 people in the industry, but more importantly, we have kids who’ve gone on from our broadcast program and have developed the skills of getting people to be successful in their business, in their world. I think it’d be nice to know that we have a little bit of hand in it, because they’re your friends, but then all of a sudden, you’ve got to make them be successful. How do you do that without rupturing the friendship?
Mike Siciliano [00:10:28] Right. Well, it’s one of the things Rod talks a lot about, entrepreneurship, and really wanting us to lean into that. This was some of our early entrepreneurship. You’re talking about kids who you give ownership of. You have to create five minutes of airtime and make it interesting, and good, and quality. They just have to do it. That was, for us, one of our first forays into that mindset which has now grown. If we get back to SFCtv, what is SFCtv, and then, what is broadcast?
John Salyer [00:11:00] All right. Let me flip it around. Let me tell you what broadcast is. Broadcast is part of the curriculum. It meets the AGE requirement. There’s an intro to broadcast, where you get to go through the process of editing, writing, directing, producing, engineering, sound, anchoring, speech. Amy works with them a lot. Amy does a lot of in front of the camera work; I do the behind the camera work. You go through and learn everything—how to interview, how to do satellite interviews. We do everything. We’re not married to a broadcast per se; we’re married to let’s stretch you as far as we can. That’s the intro. Then if you love it and you’re good at it, you can become part of advanced in which you then run and teach intro along with the teachers, and help run those kids, and then do your own documentary, and put on your own broadcast to the school. Then outside club of kids who want to be there is SFCtv. My vision is to continue to grow. Sports is one area. I’d like to do some news, heavy news. It’s more of a chance to do… SFCtv is a club, I guess, by definition.
Mike Siciliano [00:12:15] It’s doing live events in the community.
John Salyer [00:12:17] Oh, yes. It’s not just sports. We’ve done plays, and we’ve done the Veterans Day. What’s really great about it is we’re getting to the point because of Rob Honma and all his help, our equipment is cutting edge, finally.
Mike Siciliano [00:12:35] Just so people know, Rob, our IT director…
John Salyer [00:12:38] Incredible supporter of this in his group. I couldn’t do it without him. We have a thing called NDI that we’re working on. They call it leading edge. Our kids in SFCtv are having the opportunity to work on literally leading edge. That’s not even in the universities yet. We’re way ahead of the curve on that one. In fact, I would say we’re out there without a net. Every once in a while, please be patient with us if there’s a technical difficulty. It’s these kids doing this work on their own as a club to create a community about an event.
Mike Siciliano [00:13:12] One of the things about your broadcast and your media arts classes is that they fulfill the art requirements here to graduate.
John Salyer [00:13:18] Yeah, it’s excellent, because we require a lot of writing and articulation, speech, and it fulfills that side of the fine arts as well as some of the classes, fulfill the practical arts. We are blessed to have kids who, if this is their voice, they get three years to speak it.
Mike Siciliano [00:13:35] Got you. There’s a lot of kids who would be nervous about some of the other arts that…
John Salyer [00:13:40] I would be the one. Unlike you. I wasn’t a choirboy.
Mike Siciliano [00:13:43] Let’s not go there. The standards were low back then. How many did you have this year doing broadcast?
John Salyer [00:13:50] Well, let me back up a little bit. The first kid was a kid named Spencer Callant back in ’13. He became an engineer. I got him off the cameras. Cameras are basic, and you have to learn, but the engineering is really difficult. He’s the first one I brought in, and then a guy named Charles Dudley, and then Chad Buley. Chad Buley, I really want people to know that that was a servant of the Lord, kid. He had a vision of SFCtv, what it is today.
Mike Siciliano [00:14:16] He’s incredible.
John Salyer [00:14:18] Yeah. What happened was he recruited, he talked, he encouraged, he brought kids in. I gave him a list of kids I think would be good, and he put together a team himself as a sophomore and junior. Those are the kids that are seniors now. This year I have a core of 17 and about 30 that float in and out. A lot of them are graduating. I just came from a meeting today with the new group of freshmen, sophomores, and there’s 40 of them that want to… It’s like a beast, but it’s a great place to be. We averaged 17 kids a game.
Mike Siciliano [00:14:54] It’s unbelievable. My whole family all over the country watches. There’s 100 people here who have that story. Our kids, grandparents get to see them play. At this point, it is 90% a student production.
John Salyer [00:15:12] I would say Hunter is the only person that… I have an adult on air with him. That’s it. He’s an alumni. More importantly, he’s there for mentoring, because the kids – he’s such a godly guy.
Mike Siciliano [00:15:23] I get to the game with the football team. The SFCtv kids are there. They’re setting up. They got all this equipment they’re bringing in, hooking up all the cables…
John Salyer [00:15:13] It’s like a beachhead landing.
Mike Siciliano [00:15:34] Problem-solving. They get there, and it’s like, “Okay, what’s the thing that’s not going to be how we expect it that we have to solve?”
John Salyer [00:15:40] Exactly. They walk the field. They make decisions based on logistics—how to get things going, where they’re placing cameras, who’s going to do what. They handle that all themselves. I’m there to advise. I’ll probably do a lot more next year than this year, but this year… In fact, the last five games I didn’t touch a thing. These kids were so…
Mike Siciliano [00:15:57] I’m going to share the story if you don’t mind.
John Salyer [00:16:01] Sure.
Mike Siciliano [00:16:01] Our first playoff game you showed up. In the playoffs, our county actually has a contract with a broadcast company that does all the playoff games. They showed up with your students. Showed up at the same time. I think at one point they leaned over and said something to you, right?
John Salyer [00:16:22] They came down and said, “Why are they hiring us? They should be hiring you guys.” I said, “It’s not me; it’s my kids.” He’s like, “Do you have a card?” It was a really nice compliment.
Mike Siciliano [00:16:32] Right. Do you think it’s a coincidence that next week the county didn’t let us broadcast?
John Salyer [00:16:36] Yeah, I think so. At that game, we had almost 2,000 views.
Mike Siciliano [00:16:40] Unbelievable. Our high school’s 450 students. That’s pretty remarkable. If you were going to talk to an eighth-grader right now who’s thinking about all the things they get involved in, what would your pitch be of here’s the reasons why being a part of SFCtv or a part of our broadcast team, you’re going to graduate better because of it?
John Salyer [00:17:06] Here’s what I do tell them. I say, “Number one, you get to be part of incredible people; you get to be a part of something that’s magical.” It really is. Synergy. You do what you do, but you put on something that’s much more than you’ll ever be as far as your ability to create something. You’re a part of something great that serves the community. I really do believe that brings our community together. You get to be with people. You get to work alongside people, older people. You get mentored. You get to try everything. You get to flex your intellectual muscles in areas that you had no idea. I go back to a kid, Eric Stenson, who was struggling. The principal came to me and said, “He’s been kicked out of study hall. He’s been kicked out of all these classes. Will you take him?” I’m like, “Sure, I’ll take him.” He now owns his own company and runs his own production company in Australia. He just found his voice. I say try it. You can be in front of the camera, or behind the camera, or above the camera. Either way, you can find something that you’re great at, and then you give that gift to the community.
Mike Siciliano [00:18:10] I just learned that some of the kids we’re having trouble with I should bring them…
John Salyer [00:18:13] Yeah, I shut my mouth up on that one.
Mike Siciliano [00:18:17] Okay, but we love all our kids. They’re all great.
John Salyer [00:18:18] Yeah.
Mike Siciliano [00:18:19] We’re all on a journey.
John Salyer [00:18:21] Like Clark Gilbert says, they all have a voice.
Mike Siciliano [00:18:22] Yeah, absolutely. One thing I do want to touch on about your broadcast class—it’s one of my favorite things to do every year. In fact, I think we have it coming up, where you give the groups an assignment of take a controversial issue and go find some guests to interview about it. Talk about that project and what you’re hoping to get out of it.
John Salyer [00:18:46] It’s my media arts class. The real goal is not so much the controversial topic; it’s to learn how to listen actively and to understand. In order to do that, you have to have done the research. No one wants to do the hard work. I encourage my kids to dig deep on both sides of the topic so that when they have people talking to them about it, they can actively listen and say, “Explain that idea more. Come back. I want to hear what…” You’ve been gracious enough to come and speak and be honest.
Mike Siciliano [00:19:20] I love it. It’s fun.
John Salyer [00:19:21] It’s my favorite project of the year. It’s something that I want to grow more in SFCtv because it requires so much of our students to really have a base of discernment, an understanding of their political and social and, most importantly, spiritual views of topics, and to be able to listen to someone else articulate their thoughts and then engage in a way that brings out a resolution. It sounds as cool as it is.
Mike Siciliano [00:19:53] It’s awesome.
John Salyer [00:19:55] It’s my favorite time of the year, and it’s coming up. We have you and a couple of other people lined up. The kids are a little nervous now.
Mike Siciliano [00:20:06] Which is good. Healthy nerves. Like you said, it’s in crisis a lot. It feels like I got five minutes to do this well.
John Salyer [00:20:15] The great thing about it is we do it with the full person in your ear. The person in the control room is helping that person out there. But it’s like, “Let’s get deeper, deeper, deeper.” It’s a great experience to watch these kids. A couple years ago was a phenomenal experience when you came in, because those kids really tackled that project. I’m looking forward to this year, too.
Mike Siciliano [00:20:37] I asked you about give the pitch on the way in, but let’s talk about the way out. In your mind, someone who’s spent four years in broadcast, SFCtv, some combination of the two, what are they leaving with? What do you expect and hope to see from them when they’re done with your program?
John Salyer [00:20:55] Well, that’s great. I expect them to be able to handle all shapes and sizes of complications. We say be a duck. Maybe underneath you’re paddling like crazy, but above you’re calm, cool, and collected, and you’ve allowed your mind to focus on solutions. I think what I’ve seen are kids come out with the ability to handle crisis, to fix, solve, to know what they’re talking about, to understand what they believe, and, most importantly, to be able to work in various groups—shapes, sizes, and beliefs—and be successful. That’s what I’m most proud about is almost all of our kids come out of this program with the capabilities to write, to articulate, to speak, and to be a part of something bigger than them, and be successful.
Mike Siciliano [00:21:47] Yeah. I’ll just add from my seat, you’ve created a home for a lot of kids on campus. We’ve talked about that with some of our other teachers who are involved in a lot of these not just class but outside of class things. You’ve got that crew that it’s always lunchtime, or after school, or whatever coming down, hanging out. That allows you to speak truth into their lives and to love those kids. Thanks, Sal, for what you do now and for what you’ve done for the knuckleheads of the past like myself.
John Salyer [00:22:18] Well, I’m a reformed knucklehead.
Mike Siciliano [00:22:22] That’s right. We just help each other.
John Salyer [00:22:23] Yeah. I’m just ahead of you, that’s all.
Mike Siciliano [00:22:26] Yeah. Well, good, because I still need help. Well, Sal, you and I could talk forever.
John Salyer [00:22:32] Yes. We should.
Mike Siciliano [00:22:32] We probably will, actually, after we turn the cameras off. Thank you so much for being here today and just for continuing now for 34 years to pour into our students, and to show them Jesus, and to teach them a whole bunch of skills.
John Salyer [00:22:47] I appreciate that. Thank you.
Mike Siciliano [00:22:49] Thanks to our listeners and viewers. This has been another episode of our Eagle Perspective Podcast. If this is your first one or you want to see other ones, you can find us on Apple Music, Spotify, or other places where podcasts are found. Our video podcasts are on YouTube. Please check out our other episodes. We will be back soon.