'Today Show' host Al Roker surprises ASU journalism students


October 23, 2013

An appreciative tweet to "The Today Show" by two ASU students resulted in a surprise visit to the Downtown Phoenix campus by show host Al Roker.

Donning a Sparky mascot headpiece, Roker revealed himself to a stunned, enthusiastic audience of approximately 150 journalism students, who gathered at the Devil’s Den inside Taylor Place for the Oct. 23 live broadcast. Download Full Image

“They may all be Sun Devils, but today you are all my people!” Roker announced to millions of viewers and the group of assembled students, who enthusiasticaly cheered, chanted and showed their school spirit throughout the three-hour broadcast.

Roker’s unnanounced visit was in response to a message sent out in August by Cronkite students Torunn Sinclair and Kari Osep, who tweeted #SunDevilsHeartToday. Later that month, the network set up a remote broadcast in Taylor Place, which showed the halls and rooms decked out in a "Today Show" theme. And on Wednesday, "The Today Show" visited Downtown Phoenix campus to express their appreciation to students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, who are fervent followers and gather to watch the show every morning. 

Roker’s presence literally brought Sinclair and a few others to tears.

“I couldn’t believe Al was there in person because it was absolutely surreal," said Osep, a 20-year-old junior. "This was a dream come true for both me and Torunn. Come on – Al Roker and 'The Today Show,' live at the Downtown Phoenix campus at Taylor Place! It’s absolutely insane.”

The jovial host and weatherman was in rare form, passing out "Today Show" hats, signing autographs, fielding random questions and offering career advice.

“Social media is a double-edged sword,” Roker cautioned. “You are the stop gap between hearsay and the truth, and it’s your job to find the truth. Just because something’s on the Internet or social media doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”

Roker also suggested students need to be prepared, be themselves and know a little bit about everything.

“I Iove my job because I learn something new every day,” Roker said. “It’s so rewarding to come to places like ASU and meet people who enjoy the show.”

Freshman Anthony Mitchell, who sported ASU-themed pajamas to the live shoot, caught Roker’s eye as soon as he entered the room.

“Are you wearing pajamas, sir?” Roker asked. “That’s really disturbing. Do you have a flap in the back?”

“I wish I did,” said Mitchell, who matched Roker barb for barb throughout the morning.

After Roker signed off, he was on a plane bound for New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Despite his brief appearance, students say Roker left a lasting impression.

“The whole thing is a still a shock. It was one thing to get on 'The Today Show,' but to have the network send him to ASU and reciprocate the passion we have towards them is amazing,” said Sinclair, a 21-year-old senior. “Getting a selfie with Al Roker on Twitter is going to be unforgettable and hard to top. It means a lot to all of us that he came.”

Reporter , ASU Now

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'Planting the SEED' to grow STEM teachers


October 23, 2013

A three-year, $11.6 million federal education grant will provide additional resources for hundreds of Arizona State University teacher candidates to pursue STEM subjects, and offer professional development to thousands of undergraduates and in-service teachers around the state on teaching writing standards.

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), in partnership with the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, was awarded an $11.6 million Support Effective Educators Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education for 2013-2016. STEM teachers Download Full Image

“This project will continue to ensure that Arizona State University is preparing educators who are classroom ready on day one, as well as provide tailored, evidence-proven professional development to teachers across Arizona,” said Teachers College dean, Mari Koerner.

The Planting the SEED Project plans to recruit and prepare 220 students to pursue STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – careers by providing teacher candidates in the areas of 7th-12th grade math and science with living wage stipends.

Additionally, the project will partner with ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to infuse STEM into its coursework and provide professional development in the Common Core/STEM subjects. Graduates of the program will continue to receive induction support from Teachers College faculty during their first year of teaching.

At a Higher Education Town Hall hosted by ASU in September, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College’s efforts in STEM as “nothing short of remarkable.”

Beyond STEM, the project will provide in-service teachers in 21 Arizona school districts with professional development in the writing standards for Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (formerly known as Common Core).

“Teachers need to be prepared to teach students that can critically consume and effectively produce information through writing,” said Catherine Weber, assistant professor of literacy education in the Teachers College. “This project will engage teachers in strategic professional development to increase their knowledge about writing, confidence in teaching writing and abilities to improve student achievement.”

Grant resources will also support the Teachers College’s Professional Learning Library, an online community of thousands of teaching presentations and forms for educators, and the iTeachAZ Data Dashboard, which allows teacher candidates to gauge and track their progress.

The Teachers College and NIET are also partners on a pair of federal grants that serve more than 30 school districts across the state. The Arizona-Ready-for-Rigor Project is working with teachers to increase their effectiveness through the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, a comprehensive school reform system that provides opportunities for career advancement, professional growth, instructionally-focused accountability and competitive compensation for educators. The ASU NEXT grant focuses on providing a more rigorous curriculum for teacher candidates while providing in-classroom experiences through the college’s iTeachAZ teacher preparation program.

“The Teachers College takes our school partnerships seriously. When our partners expressed a need for well-trained math and science teachers in the middle school and high school grades, we recognized the SEED Project as an ideal opportunity to respond to those needs,” said Michelle Rojas, clinical assistant professor and executive director of the NEXT grant, who wrote the SEED application with NIET. “School partnerships are critical to the success of the iTeachAZ program.”

The Planting the SEED Project is the latest step in the continuation of the educational reform ASU and its partners are developing together.

“In order to ensure that every student has an effective teacher every year, it is essential that new teachers are prepared to excel beginning in their first year, particularly in STEM classrooms,” said Gary Stark, president and CEO of NIET, which is nationally recognized for helping current teachers improve their instructional skills through the TAP system. “We are pleased to be working with ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and ASU faculty members in the STEM fields, along with our school partners, to provide new teachers with the preparation they need to be outstanding teachers."