Teacher Reporting Labs: MEET YOUR HOSTS!

Consider this an open mic with “The Mikes,” as we fondly refer to them in the SRL community, hosts of our new podcast, Teacher Reporting Labs (TRL). Discover more about their background and experiences, uncover some behind-the-scenes TRL secrets, and learn what podcasts they are currently tuned into in our Q&A below. 


With 19 years in Detroit’s Radio industry and 14 years of dedicated teaching at Royal Oak High School in Royal Oak, Michigan, Mike Conrad is a seasoned educator and champion of digital arts and film. Conrad serves as the president of DAFT (Digital, Arts, Film & Television) and has been honored with multiple awards, including DAFT Teacher of the Year (2021), the Courageous Persuaders Wall Street Journal Courageous Leader Award (2017), and the Specs Howard Broadcasting School Media Teacher of the Year (2014). Conrad celebrates 23 years of marriage and is proud of his son’s studies in Computer Programming at Michigan State University (go green!). In his bit of spare time, he plays in a band in and around Detroit with a great group of ‘Dads’ called Midnight Proof!



Michael Kaufman has been teaching for 35 years, initially teaching English, Speech, Debate, Acting, and Stagecraft. Throughout his career, he’s earned accolades such as Michigan Theatre Teacher of the Year (2003-2004), Royal Oak Teacher of the Year (2004-2005), and Film Teacher of the Year (2019). Kaufman has been teaching Broadcast Journalism at the Frederick V Pankow Center for 17 years. He’s been married for over 30 years to an amazing wife and takes immense pride in his son, a cardiac ICU nurse, and his daughter, an elementary school teacher in the inner city.

How did you two initially connect?

CONRAD: In the journey of changing careers, I decided to use my cold calling skills from my sales jobs and began calling schools around Metro Detroit that have robust broadcast programs. So, about 12 years ago, I called the Pankow Center and told the person on the other end of the phone that I was looking for open positions and asked if they could help.  Well, that person was Kaufman and he said, “Well, considering you’re calling to take my job, this conversation just got really awkward.”  I visited his classroom and toured his amazing facility.  Once we connected again and I told him about the best-kept secret in teaching, SRL, he joined us.  Since then, we have spent time together in D.C., Arizona, Boston, and Grand Rapids…but never seemed to find the time in our busy weeks to get together here in Detroit!  

Fun fact: this podcast concept started on rooftops. In DC, in Denver, in Royal Oak. We would sit talking about life, family, and teaching… and laughing and supporting each other. About every 30 minutes one of us would always say “This should be a podcast.”  There were usually cigars involved. 

KAUFMAN: Yup. I soon found out he was not after my job, he’s pretty cool, and a few years down the road, I saw Conrad and we reconnected at a few broadcast teacher workshops. After I learned Conrad had completely renovated the broadcast program, I asked my boss if I could go visit Conrad’s classroom at Royal Oak High School (coincidentally, where I taught acting years ago), to learn how he was developing this program. It was probably the best professional development day in my 35-year career where I had more fun and learned more in one day that altered how I currently teach when he brings up SRL.  I joined SRL, and the rest is history. 

You’ve just wrapped up recording the pilot season of Teacher Reporting Labs (TRL). What’s been your favorite part of this process?

KAUFMAN: Spending time with Conrad and collaborating with Dobz (SRL’s Community Engagement Manager Emily Dobkin) and Evan (TRL’s Podcast Editor) has been the best part of this process. What most people don’t realize is that while Mike and I live and work about 30 minutes from each other, we spend more time together at SRL events than we do throughout the year, so spending time across the microphone with him has been a blast. I truly look forward to working on the podcast and sharing time chatting about our careers and just laughing about all the crazy stuff that happens during a school day.

CONRAD: Honestly, just being in a studio and creating with someone I admire and trust. Add to the mix that our editor, Evan, is a former student. And, the SRL crew is nothing but the best.  The entire conceptualizing, planning, recording, and editing has been fun. Ask anyone who knows me, my life mantra is “If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.” This is SO worth doing.

Any fun behind-the-scenes secrets we should know about?

KAUFMAN: Conrad always presses the record button without ever telling me. Those moments that sound unscripted, are completely unscripted for real. You’d think by now I’d realize that if I’m in front of a microphone, that he’s recording, but then he’ll turn to me and say: “We should have recorded that, that was good” so I never know.

CONRAD: Kaufman shows up every time with Starbucks for me!

This is your first time recording a podcast. What’s that been like? 

KAUFMAN: The highlight for me was the collaboration, getting feedback, and having my babbling expertly edited. I would walk away from every session feeling like it was such a mess, and then Evan would get a hold of it and turn it into something that made sense and really sounded great. After the first shock of “this sounds a lot better than I ever thought,” the biggest treat was waiting to hear what Evan did with our conversations behind the mic. It was also great to work with Mike, as he already knew how to cue Evan into our segments, to make it somewhat easier for him to have a marker as a starting point for the next element. Our weekly Zoom meetings where we’d dive into the prior conversations to figure out the jigsaw puzzle of telling this story in under 20 minutes was such a unique challenge and because of the team, was an awesome experience.

I think I really learned about the power of teamwork, as I’m usually working on my own to figure things out (as so many of us do as broadcast teachers) so it really reminded me of the fun of collaboration.

Conrad, you’ve been behind the mic in a studio before. Tell us more about that…

CONRAD: I began my radio career at WDET, Detroit Public Radio. Part of the job afforded me the opportunity to fill in for on-air hosts, specifically on the overnight Midnight to 5 am shift.  One night someone called in and asked if I would play Working Class Hero by John Lennon. So I did. Even with the f-bombs. The next night the guy called back in to tell the regular host, Chuck, that he loved the “fill-in” guy: 

“He was great!  He played Working Class Hero!”  

“Cool, he played the edited version.”  

“No man!  He played the whole thing!!”


Ok, what’s YOUR favorite podcast?

KAUFMAN: Smartless. I have a Smartless mug and a Smartless hoodie. I’m all in on that podcast. (In TRL, I feel like the Sean Hayes voice to Conrad’s Will Arnett voice)

CONRAD: Walking The Floor with Chris Shiflet.  Chris is the ‘other’ guitar player in the Foo Fighters. In his podcast, he interviews musicians about their lives and careers. It’s very raw and under-produced. Just like you’re sitting backstage and talking.

I also really enjoy WTF with Marc Maron.  He is great at interviewing in the most non-traditional way.

We understand there’s something at the end of each episode that deals with wraps. What’s your favorite kind of wrap?

KAUFMAN: Buffalo Chicken Wrap. Spicy crispy chicken with blue cheese or feta, and romaine lettuce with some kind of spicy/creamy dressing. It hits.

CONRAD: What he said, minus the bleu cheese.

Also, any gift for me.