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Edwardsville High School, Ill., Builds Podcast Network

What started as a podcast club in 2019 has since grown into a network that created 122 shows last year, with a dedicated studio at the school and grants from the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Foundation.

illustration of students sitting around a microphone doing a podcast
(TNS) — When Edwardsville High School English teacher Nicole Pontious started the podcast club alongside Lauren Mudge in 2019, the two received a $200 grant to buy a podcast starter kit that included the club's first recording microphone.

"It was this teeny tiny little thing," Pontious said with a laugh as she recalled the roots of the club. "It was very different. We had passion projects. The kids would come in and just record fun little things."

Fast forward to 2024 and the podcast network, called the Tiger Talk Podcast Network, houses two podcasts in Tiger Spotlight and The Jungle, which combined for more than 3,300 total plays across 122 shows this past year.

The network recently received a $1,164.58 grant from the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Foundation. It's the second straight year the network has received a grant for more than $1,000.

EHS is one of 16 schools around Illinois to receive the grant, which is part of the Illinois High School Journalism Grants Program.

But how did the podcast network at EHS grow over the past few years?


Once everything got back to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tiger Talk Network resumed operations and brought on new faces to help.

EHS English teacher and tennis coach Dave Lipe was brought on to help Pontious because of his experience in hosting the award-winning Metro East Sports Podcast. Pontious said getting Lipe involved was the biggest change, since he facilitated the podcast from a club to a full network of students and was able to educate the students on how to run a podcast.

With Lipe's help, the student-ran network has evolved into one that went from a friend group doing "passion projects," to a network of students from all grade levels who do all aspects of the show, including technical work, editing and hosting.

During the past three years, the podcast has been a fulfilling experience for EHS Class of 2024 graduates Abigail Stacy and Jozie Beedie, who both regularly contributed to Tiger Spotlight.

Tiger Spotlight aims to highlight clubs, administrators, educators and more around EHS, while The Jungle focuses on sports. Both podcasts can be found on Spotify.


"It was great," Stacy said. "It's skills that apply so far beyond podcast stuff. Just doing it in high school, you could use it for communication skills in the future."

Stacy added that being involved with a podcast is something she looks forward to continuing in college.

"It really helped me with my public speaking skills," Beedie said. "It's different over audio than presenting in person. When I listen back to myself, that's when I really critique myself."

Stacy said the skills she gained from the podcast, such as public speaking and communication, became helpful recently.

"I had a couple of interviews for scholarships and I realized in the interview that it helped a lot because I had been on the other side of it doing so many podcast episodes," Stacy said.

The podcast also helped both of them with overall organization, since the students had to plan and run the interviews.

"It definitely helped with listening skills," Beedie said. "I realized from the beginning to the end, I could come up with questions on the spot. It flows naturally now."

For the 2023-2024 school year, other podcast members on Tiger Spotlight and The Jungle included Ivy Lin, Joshua Anoke, Iris Palmier, Hanna Matarelli, Joseph DeMare, Norah Washington, Marie Kaman, Schaefer Bates, Katie Woods, Olivia Kolnsberg and Owen Schoeneweis.

Local sponsors included Kettle River Furniture & Bedding, First Community, Sunflower Dental, BJ's Printables, Brickman Orthodontics, State Farm Rick Marteeny, Glik's, Edley's Bar-B-Que, The Edwardsville Intelligencer, the Metro East Sports Podcast, and Smoothie King.

"It's amazing how much it grew," Beedie said. "It was so amazing to see and be a part of that community."


What helps the podcast is the dedicated space at Edwardsville High School for the network to exist. The podcast has its own small studio where the media center at EHS used to be. The studio is where episodes are filmed and equipment is stored.

"I don't know what we would do," Beedie said about if the network didn't have the space. "It blocks a lot of sound. It has all of our stuff."

The space is also able to get the hosts and guests into the proper mental state for the episodes. Stacy mentioned that guests are also talking about how nice the dedicated studio space is.

Over the past two years, the Tiger Talk Podcast Network has received over $2,400 in grants from the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Foundation. The grants are used for equipment.

Last year, Pontious was able to replace the microphones and microphone stands, as well as a portable microphone and recording device for on-site coverage and remote episodes. She wants to replace the headphones, add new chairs, another portable microphone and a new neon sign to the studio for next year.

"We're trying to establish us as a brand," Pontious said.

The Tiger Talk Network even has a sign that lists the guests for that week. Tiger Spotlight has one side and The Jungle has the other. The sign is moved around the school and has a QR code on it to scan to take listeners straight to the podcasts.

Going into her 14th year of teaching, Pontious said her involvement with the podcast network is "my jam."

"I feel like I probably put more time into it than I'd like to admit," she said. "It's a creative outlet. I love the creativity that comes from the students. I love guiding them as they figure out the organization, the scheduling and coming up with the questions. It's really fun to showcase teachers and administrators."

Pontious said she routinely has colleagues, ranging from administrators to janitors, throughout the year asking to come on the show.

"Just allowing people the platform to share the story outside of what students see," Pontious said.

In the 2022-2023 school year, the two podcasts saw just more than 1,400 total plays across 54 shows. This past school year saw a major increase to more than 3,300 total plays across 122 shows.

Stacy said she's been stopped by random parents throughout the past couple of years to tell her how much they love the show.

"It's a really great club," Beedie said.

©2024 Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.