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Bright Spots: The Podcast

Kanoe Bunney and Education Pathways (Ep. 3 Pt. 2)

Picture of Kanoe Bunney

Guest: Kanoe Bunney

Picture of Alyssa Leraas

Hosts: Alyssa Leraas and Cameron Yee

Table of Contents

  • [00:00 - 01:12] (1:12) Prologue: Thank You, Tracy!

  • [01:23 - 03:54] (2:31) Introductions and celebrating the Lunar New Year

  • [03:54 - 09:24] (5:30) Kanoe’s education background and how she first got involved with the WREN

  • [09:24 - 10:49] (1:25) Her experience on the Coordinating Body

  • [10:50 - 17:42] (6:53) Her experience on the Data and Measurement Task Force

  • [17:42 - 21:28] (3:46) The ED101A Change Project and what they’ve learned

  • [21:29 - 25:14] (3:45) Reflections on making data and information accessible and taking small steps toward improvement 

  • [25:14 - 28:40] (3:26) How ED101A compares to a Teacher Cadet program

  • [28:40 - 29:51] (1:11) Conclusion





Hi, this is Cameron Yee, WREN Communications Coordinator.


Since this podcast episode was recorded, Tracy Rear, the WREN's coordinator since 2019, has left her position to pursue other professional endeavors. As you'll hear Kanoe Bunney describe in this episode, and have heard Anil Oommen and Amanda Sarles explain in past episodes, Tracy was instrumental in getting the WREN off the ground, recruiting members for the Coordinating Body and then, over the next five years, helping build it up to what we have today.


If you've had a chance to work with Tracy, you know about her dedication, collaborative spirit, and positivity despite challenging and confusing times, which was certainly the case when she was hired as the WREN Coordinator in the Fall of 2019, less than six months before the COVID lockdown. I wanted to have Tracy on the Bright Spots podcast at some point this school year to hear about her experiences coordinating this initiative through the ups and downs, but now I'll just have to figure out another way. Even though she's no longer on the WREN staff, she is of course still a valuable educator in our network. 


Thank you Tracy for all your work and dedication over the last five years. The WREN staff and the Coordinating Body will miss you and we wish you the best, now and in the future.


[Introduction Music]



Welcome to Bright Spots, Highlights from the Western Regional Educator Network. I'm Cameron Yee, Communications Coordinator for the WREN. I'm here with Alyssa Leraas, the WREN's Coordinator of Data and Measurement, and Kanoe Bunney, Education Faculty and Department Chair of Education and Human Development and Family Studies at Linn Benton Community College. 


In today's episode, we'll learn about Kanoe’s background and role in education, her involvement with the WREN's Data and Measurement Task Force, and what draws her to this work as both a Coordinating Body member and team lead for a change project. 


Thank you both for taking the time to be here. 


We are recording on February 13th, which is the fourth day of Lunar New Year, which started on February 10th. Kanoe, I know you grew up in Hawaii. I've never actually visited Hawaii, so it's on my bucket list. But I've also been curious, like, what is the Lunar New Year celebration like in Hawaii?


Kanoe Bunney 02:18

So the Lunar New Year celebration, as you know, happens usually around this time. But Hawaii and people of Chinese ancestry generally celebrate the Lunar New Year on January 1st, and then kind of take it up again later on. But the first of the year, so December 31st, the New Year's Eve into New Year's is a huge celebration. Lots of fireworks.Lots of food and lots of let's chase away the negativity of last year and kind of start anew. Right? So there's lots of belief in that, you know, eating certain kinds of soups are part of the tradition and then weaving together the many Asian cultures that are present there. Yeah, it was a big part of growing up. We always looked forward to New Year's. 


If I visit home and I miss New Year's, my sister always gives it to me. “You're not here, what's going on?” It's like it's cheaper if I leave earlier. So I try to – I make it a point to try to at least leave on the first or later. 


Cameron Yee 03:27

Half of my family's in Malaysia right now celebrating the Lunar New Year. It's a little bit different celebrating there versus here even though there's a community to celebrate with here but just the whole scale of things is way beyond what you'll find outside of like a San Francisco or New York City and the celebration goes for like 15 days and it's a, it's a bit of a thing. So I look forward to that, experiencing that again. Yeah. 



Since you grew up in Hawaii, what was your transition from the Islands to the Mainland? Was that for school or…? 


Kanoe Bunney 04:03 

Yes, I went on, I started my undergraduate degree at University of Hawaii. And then I was speaking with one of my cousins and she had read about a domestic exchange program you could do an exchange with most of these state institutions across the country. And at the time, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Hawaii were the most, the two most popular exchange destinations. And my sister had also gone on domestic exchange to Long Island in New York. So I was inspired, I was like, oh, that's gonna be fun. Let's try it, you know, for a year. So we went and I fell in love with the seasons, the change, a huge learning curve for me, a little, a lot. Culture shock, let's be honest. There's a lot of change, but I liked it. I liked Massachusetts a lot. After my time in school, I graduated with a degree in education studies, not really knowing the direction I wanted to take with education. So I entered Teach for America. I knew I wanted to teach, wanted to experiment with that. Did Teach for America in the South Bronx, and then explored a master's degree at Bank Street College in early childhood in elementary ed. So then I jumped from third grade back into early childhood. So I was like kindergarten age, spent some time with them and then got my master's degree. Did that for a while and then moved to, just because of my husband's work, we moved to Maryland where I taught – I would jump back into first grade. So I never did first grade before. Discovered that I really liked teaching and I really liked building curriculum. Thinking about how students are engaged, how they learn, just what drives them and motivates them. 


Alyssa Leraas 05:50 

We're still on the East Coast though with you, Kanoe. How did you end up out in Oregon and how did you eventually kind of make your way to the WREN? 


Kanoe Bunney 05:57

Right, so after spending some time on the East Coast, my husband said, “Wouldn't it be nice to be closer to home and live on the West Coast?” So there was an opportunity with his job. So he explored that option and he said, “Let's move to Eugene.”


So not sure again of what Eugene would entail. I came out with the same cousin that I went to U. Mass with and said, “Hey, let's try it.” That cousin lives in L.A. So she met me basically for a weekend. And we spent the weekend in Eugene, discovered, “Hey, this is a livable place.” Moved to Eugene. My kids [“Livable”] Yep. My kids were little. So I was kind of busy with them.


I was working out at a local CrossFit gym next to someone who did academic advising at Lane Community College. She said, “We need someone to teach education classes here at Lane. You sound qualified.” It's like, you don't know anything about my work, but okay. And she said, “We need an education instructor. Put in your resumé.” So that was how that happened.


And then I started teaching a Foundations of Education course. I got to know who taught it before, who was on her way towards retirement, talked about the curriculum, what the needs were, and I discovered a real niche for working with community college students because issues of equity and access are so ever-present for them. I just remember how savvy they were about the courses they needed to take, about the financial resources it would take to finish coursework. And I thought, “Wow, these are things I never really had to think about as a college student.” Or I thought about it, but it was an afterthought after the loans. 


So, yeah, so I discovered I really liked it. And then through my work at Lane Community College, I got involved with Lane ESD initially when I taught the Introduction to Education Ed 100 course, and I started to meet other high school teachers who taught the same course in high school.


So that was initially how I got involved with Lane ESD. Through that time, it was about, it was probably a couple of years in with my work with Lane Community College and Lane ESD that I heard that a woman named Tracy was starting something called the WREN, which I had no idea what that was, but I knew she was visiting districts and doing empathy interviews and town halls with different communities. So I reached out and invited her to my class and we met. We met one day after class, her schedule was really packed. And I started to talk about my vision for education and how I envision this cohort and community of students who wanted to become teachers. And so she invited me to be a part of the Coordinating Body of the WREN. 


Cameron Yee 08:47

So we were wondering this, if you were a founding member or? 


Kanoe Bunney 08:51

No, I actually came, because I came to the second meeting, which was at Oregon State. So it was already in 


Alyssa Leraas 08:58

So she wasn't a “founding” founding member. She started on the second meeting. The second meeting everyone.


Kanoe Bunney 09:05

Yeah, maybe the second or third, I think. Yeah. 


Cameron Yee 09:08

You probably still count based on, you know


Kanoe Bunney 09:11

Based on the data?


Cameron Yee 09:13

Well, I think you're definitely in the picture of all the founding members. So you know, you just need to not feel that imposter syndrome. [Right.] 


Alysaa Leraas 09:23

Just accept it. [Second best.] I mean, I think that the data comment is a great kind of move into you. Well, maybe just talk a little bit actually about how, what it's like to be on the Coordinating Body, like what that role has kind of been like for you, and then how you got involved with the Task Forces, and specifically Data and Measurement. 


Kanoe Bunney 09:46

So I think I've seen the Coordinating Body grow and evolve over time, right? Because when I came in right before COVID, and we had to do a complete pivot in one,  our meeting structure, we were meeting in person regularly, like maybe monthly at that point, and then we moved on Zoom more regularly. So that beginning group, I still consider like my beginning cohort, even though I wasn't the first group. [Embrace it, Kanoe, embrace it.] I’m gonna embrace it.


I love being a part of it. I just, I like being part of the decision-making process. I like asking, being able to feel open to ask questions about our next move or our next step. And I think that what we model is essential for teaching because classroom teachers also need to be self-reflective. And I think that the WREN and the way that it has made decisions models that same effort. So that's one of the things I love about it. 


Alyssa Leraas 10:50

That's awesome. Do you see that showing up in the Data and Measurement Task Force? Or what is your experience with that like? 


Kanoe Bunney 10:57

Yeah, so I like being a part of the Data and Measurement Task Force. Initially, I didn't realize, I think sometimes I don't pay attention. You can do whatever you want with that. That there were subgroups that I could be a part of. I think I was just either too busy or just didn't think that I could take that next step of involvement and meet more regularly because I think there was a shift at one point to us meeting all the time to okay, let's break off into these kind of subgroups. So when I heard about Data and Measurement I got excited. I like data and measurement. When I was an undergraduate I took a class called Erroneous Beliefs that talked about how statistics lie. And I think it's embedded in there is critical thinking, right? What do we do with data? And to me, data seems to be at the very core of the WREN because they take that data and want to improve. Everything is about improvement and being better, right? So I love that. And I love that the data tell a unique story. And there's so much of it that we can literally look at the data, the entire meeting. We don't, but we can spend a lot of time kind of thinking about what are the common themes, you know. Which groups are included, which groups might be left out, how can we reach out to them, you know? And that I think is what I always strive to do as an educator, but I don't quite have the data always to back that up. I have inklings, but, so I like being a part of that group. 


Alyssa Leraas 12:26

Can you speak a little bit more? I think you are starting to kind of come back to some of the things that Cameron and I talked about, just like the community, the bringing diverse perspectives to the data. Can you talk a little bit more about some of the specific activities or things that we kind of go through in the task force work that kind of elevates some of those things, like how we engage diverse perspectives when we're looking at the data, the process of doing it in community. Sometimes that is really great and sometimes that's really hard and just kind of speaking to that process. 


Kanoe Bunney 13:03

So what I appreciate about talking with that group is sometimes we're tasked with looking at a specific article. So we're looking at outside research, right? It could be on the national level or with other Grow Your Own initiatives nationwide. And then we're looking at the threads that bring that data together and then looking back at what we've collected within the WREN, right? So this past week we were looking at survey data from professional development, specifically looking at BIPOC voices and looking for the benefits, I guess, or what different individuals have taken from our offerings. And I think having different members of the group speak to that, bring out different things within that qualitative data that we might not have looked at if it was only one set of eyes looking at it. 


Alyssa Leraas 13:55

Specifically my set of eyes, right? As like we kind of talked about this previously. [Well, I don't wanna put you on the spot.] Previously too, but the idea of like a data expert and like that is more or less my role on the team, but what does that really mean? Is it helpful for me to be the one who is kind of drawing out all of those patterns and themes with all of the perspectives and biases that I hold versus what does it mean to kind of hand that over to a group of folks who have their own identities and experiences that they kind of bring to that data when they're looking at it too. And just how much more rich the data becomes when we are having those kinds of conversations with one another. So I guess I can take the throne as data expert. And also it is nothing if there isn't community involved in that process. 


Cameron Yee 14:48

So the task force has like three or four members of the Coordinating Body or does it fluctuate?


Kanoe Bunney 14:53

It fluctuates, it shifts. I think we have different folks who are teaching in different regions, right? Rural and the size differential of these different districts as well as leaders, right? We've had superintendents involved in that task force. So I think all of those perspectives do enrich what we see, it's truly a mixed methods approach. 


Cameron Yee 15:16

So what are some of the challenges that have come up in that community aspect of looking at data together?


Kanoe Bunney 15:22

So I think each one of us can personalize that data and maybe read into an answer that was given or a response in a different way. But we have, I don't know, there's a culture of respect and understanding and open-mindedness. So we invite the perspectives of others to say, “Hey, maybe they may, maybe it wasn't that way.” Or we kind of check each other, I think I've noticed. There's a community practice that we have.


Alyssa Leraas 15:51

Yea, and I think from my perspective, and I think one of the challenges that shows up and perhaps one of the excuses as to why we don't do more of that kind of community analyzing process is that it takes time. [It does.] Like it takes so much time. That's constantly, you know, our meeting this month was a great example of that. Like it takes so much longer than I imagine it will. And then the discussion that comes up just fills time in ways that you can't really anticipate, I guess. And so if you really are trying to get to an end product, like doing it this way with that process, with those diverse perspectives in the room is going to take longer. And so I think that it is worth it to have that opportunity, even if they don't finish the task per se. But I think that it's still worth having the opportunity for those kinds of conversations to surface. And it gives me so much more information to think about as I kind of finish, you know, as I finish going through the information, going through the data as to what stories are kind of being drawn out. But it does take time. Like anything that we do, I think, in community takes more time than if we just did it, by ourselves. But it's better. 


Kanoe Bunney 17:15

It's true. I mean, it's time that's well spent, it's also made me reflect on those responses in a way of, hey, maybe I should be taking some of this PD so I can understand, right? The responses that are given or just what's happening, within those subgroups of the WREN. The WREN has gotten so large that there are these many elements and components of the network now.


Alyssa Leraas 17:43 

So kind of pivoting then into your design project, because I think when we talk about the involvement that you've had with the WREN, you kind of started as a Coordinating Body member, joined a task force, and then you're like, hey, “I need to be a design team lead, too!” So just talk a little bit about that project and how you got started with it and where it's at right now. 


Kanoe Bunney 18:05

So I think the project has evolved. It started with a small cohort of teachers who teach, ours is ED 101A, which is Introduction to Education, Seminar and Practicum. These teachers teach in high school, but the students who take the course can receive college credit. So we wanted to ask, “Now what, what if?” Like they take the course and then what happens, right? Like, do they really, do they realize that this course is in an education pathway? Also, do they realize that they can take classes in high school that would count towards their Associate of Arts of Oregon Transfer degree. So even if they're not going to be teachers, they should at least understand how this course fits into what they're already doing. 


So we designed, we had this idea to design some really targeted specific lunches where we would disseminate information. So first we made a tool to understand what is it that they don't know and what do they want to know. So we disseminated a survey, and we found that many students are unaware and want to know more about the job outlook for teachers in the region, and that they're just kind of unsure because they don't know. So we thought, “Okay, we can give the information.” There were questions about what do I do when I transfer. So we brought in a student who had transferred from Linn Benton to Western Oregon University. 


And we're still having these lunches, we're going to have the last one in March. Gosh, creating some slideshows, kind of drumming up some publicity for it through LBCC and then at the school and really looking at the before and after data to see, you know, what are we missing? Who's the population we're not serving or reaching? Using some of the tools of the WREN specifically to kind of move that change idea forward. 


Alyssa Leraas 20:04

Yeah, I mean, you are doing a lot of things with the design project and you have done different iterations. You spoke to some of the different strategies. So what kind of led you to choosing those things and what data were you kind of collecting along the way to highlight maybe where some of those needs were? 


Kanoe Bunney 20:21

So the data has revolved around what it takes, right? So in terms of the amount of years, amount of courses to take, students are just uncertain. So we've tried to put an emphasis on giving them something tangible. They've also made specific requests in that data. Like we left room for an open-ended question and they asked for printed materials rather than just tools online. So we thought that we could do that. 


So I think sometimes with, at least with Grow Your Own, we often think we have to do these grand gestures and really it's kind of fine tuning of what we already have and kind of putting those things together to give students something that they need to move forward. And I'm finding that these are just kind of minor tweaks in the system. I mean, listen, let's be honest, if I could fund all of them, I would. But if I can make these small changes to help them and help them give information, I think that would – get the information – I think it's making a huge difference. 


Alyssa Leraas 21:29

Yeah it kind of brings me back to some of the things that Cameron and I talked about too. We talked a lot about like the accessibility of data and how are we making the information accessible and digestible for folks. And I think you're speaking like so often, it's just like we have to make it available to people. The information has to be accessible for folks to even know kind of what their options are or what would happen if we made this decision or for that decision. So I kind of see that accessibility piece, like we gatekeep, that's the word, gatekeep information. So in so many ways, where it's showing up, data, how we are using it, how we're explaining it, how complicated we're making it when really it's just like, no, people should have access to the information that they need to make the best choices for themselves. 


So how are we, how are we doing that in your respective role and my respective role? Cameron obviously does that all the time as our communications coordinator. But yeah, just like making the information available. 


Kanoe Bunney 22:37

Mm-hmm. And then I think when information is not available, people go down the myth route, or this is what they've heard but are really sure of. So kind of breaking those myths or cracking down on some of those, some of those myths, I mean, they become barriers, I think, for students, right? Who just don't have the information or don't wanna go to a website and they have to do seven clicks before they get what they need, you know? It's, you give up.


Alyssa Leraas 23:08

Yeah, and the relationship piece, like knowing even who to ask. [Yes!] And how are, like, again, how are we making ourselves available to folks so that they can ask those questions and they have people to connect with because that is so much more personable than sending them to a website or whatever too. So when that is available, how are we putting ourselves in places where we can build some of those relationships and stuff? [Right.] 


Cameron Yee 23:32

Yeah, this came up last night in the Cabinet Task Force also and around mentorship and, you know, just kind of knowing who to ask, knowing the questions to ask, because it is a whole system of needing to navigate. And it just made me think of like we have student programs where we have navigators for high school students to, you know, navigate that high school system. But we don't really have navigators per se for somebody to go through the education pathway. But I also appreciate your lesson around making small changes to things that already exist. I liked how you phrased it in terms of like we think it needs to be this big gesture, but that tends to stop people from making a small step in the right direction. It's like, because of the perfectionism, because of whatever is perceived as the barrier of making that grand gesture, but maybe it's not a grand gesture, maybe it's just an adjustment. 


Alyssa Leraas 24:38

Yeah, and I think too, like how much more we can learn about the system or about the program or whatever, just by doing the small adjustment, it works really well okay, now there's gonna be a different need that shows up, right? Like it's never ending, we can always improve. But just even taking those small steps, whereas if you wait for the grand gesture, like, okay, you do the thing and then what? Like you do another grand gesture? So I think that we get more information too when we can do some of those small steps and then the reflection like you were speaking to, how do we reflect on that then and make the next small step?


Kanoe Bunney 25:15

And then I think completing this change idea will help us with the next high school, right? [Totally.] That we wanna work with. And we'll at least have a clear idea or a clearer idea of where to begin in that process. And sure, we'll be collecting different data, but we'll kind of know, right? Like what the common questions might be and then we can kind of go from there. Or maybe we wanna take the next step and look at other layers of that, right? Wanna talk about who has access even to those courses or to the information or maybe populations that didn't think they wanted to be teachers might exist, right? So, yeah. 


Cameron Yee 25:56

And these are high school students from? 


Kanoe Bunney 25:59

From West Albany High School. 


Cameron Yee 26:01

I only have like a very surface level exposure to like a Teacher Cadet program. Is that similar? 


Kanoe Bunney 26:09

It's really similar. So in fact, I think that there was there was a teacher who was part of the Teacher Cadet program for many years. And then she kind of evolved that Teacher Cadet program to an Introduction to Education course where students spend time observing and participating in a classroom. Yeah, it's closely related. 


Cameron Yee 26:32

When I was able to observe kind of what was happening in that program, it was pretty cool. And just the philosophy around like, let's get them earlier than when it's usually too late. Like it's like you're halfway through college. Like that is not the time to figure out if you actually want to be in a classroom. 


Kanoe Bunney 26:54

Yeah, there's several elements with it. We often don't think about nominating or recommending students to be part of the program or having them apply, right, doing an application process or thinking about who are the leaders here and maybe, you know, kind of targeting them and saying, you'd be a great teacher, right? So it's kind of repositioning the framework of how someone enters the field of teaching. So we're hoping to plant those seeds early. At least get them thinking about the possibility.


Cameron Yee 27:26

Yeah, I think what I appreciated too was just kind of bringing in other experiences that aren't quote-unquote teaching. Like they could, they could have babysat for a family for a number of years or worked at their church youth group. You know, all those sort of experiences kind of lend themselves to like teaching. And how does that then become like a more formalized education pathway? 


Kanoe Bunney 27:51

Right. Exactly. People don't realize that they often have these prior experiences that would lend themselves to teaching. 


Cameron Yee 27:59

Yeah, which sort of, kind of touches on what we talked about, because we kind of struggle sometimes like embracing the “educator” title for ourselves because we were never in the classroom. But you (Alyssa), you know, you do instruction in various ways. [Right, yeah.] And I did in, more so probably in my previous role as providing support internally for technology. But there was always like some sort of, you know, instruction or education aspect to our jobs. So, but just sort of embracing that role, even though it's not our training per se. 


Alyssa Leraas 28:34

Yeah. like Kanoe, as a founding member of the Coordinating Body, working on embracing the title. 


Cameron Yee 28:42

We are getting close to our time. But I want to thank you both for being here again. Kanoe for sharing your experience, being both on the Coordinating Body and a change project. 


Thank you, Alyssa, for being here again and being co-host. 


Alyssa Leraas 28:58

Yes, thank you. I've never been a co-host, so this was great. 


Kanoe Bunney 29:03

Thank you so much for having me today. 


Cameron Yee 29:04

Yeah, you're welcome. 


If you enjoyed this episode, please like, subscribe, or follow us on whatever podcast platform you're hearing this on. For additional information and related resources, follow the link in the episode description or browse our website at Thanks again for listening, and we hope you can join us for the next episode of the Bright Spots Podcast, Highlights from the Western Regional Educator Network.


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