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Alumna Ali Weimer, 2013 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, Gives ‘Pep Talk’ to Teacher Interns

01/11/2013

JONESBORO -- College of Education majors who will begin their teacher internships in area schools Monday heard advice today from one of their own.

Alexia Bourisaw Weimer, better known as Ali, returned to her alma mater and talked to the future teachers during their orientation sessions.

Her goal was to help the new interns “ . . . be ready to teach, be ready to reach, and be ready to inspire,” she said, calling her comments a big “pep talk” as they prepare to begin their new assignments Monday.

For nearly an hour, she relayed advice based on her own kindergarten classroom experiences. Weimer completed her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education in 2004 and her master’s degree in educational leadership in 2011, both at ASU.

In late November, Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell of the Arkansas Department of Education greeted Weimer with a surprise announcement at her school, naming her 2013 Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

Well-received by more than 160 education majors who attended orientation, she told story after story of bright children, challenging children, and fearful children she has had taught at Avondale Elementary School in the Marion School District. Weimer attributes her success to the relationships she has fostered with her students.

“Building relationships is powerful,” she advised the new teacher interns. “Utilize the power of building relationships with your students.”

Before one can effectively teach content, establishing a close relationship with students is highly important, she emphasized. While the methods will vary according to grade level, telling stories, especially about herself, helps to make connections with young students. Showing sincere interest in the students and getting to know their individual personalities has worked well for her.

Weimer was introduced to the orientation session by Sandra Hawkins, coordinator in the College of Education’s Professional Education Programs. Early childhood P-4, early childhood special education, mid-level education 4-8, and secondary education majors participated in orientation activities throughout the day, including the joint session where the ASU alumna spoke.

The College of Education recognized Weimer’s talent when she was still a student at A-State. A Blytheville native, she was the first recipient of the Dr. Mildred B. Vance Scholarship in Early Childhood and Middle Level Education.

“I have nothing but fond memories from ASU, in particular my time spent in the College of Education. While I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher, it wasn't until I got to ASU that I began to develop a true sense of what I believe about education and what type of impact I wanted to make,” she said after the state award was announced. “My best memories of ASU come from the amazing professors who ignited my passion for this glorious profession. I truly believe that I would not have been the teacher I am today without the exceptional education that I received from Arkansas State University.”

As Teacher of the Year, she will have a year of administrative leave to serve in an advisory capacity with the Arkansas State Board of Education and for other professional development purposes. Nominated for the award by her colleagues who wrote letters of recommendation to a selection committee, Weimer has created a reputation for making learning fun by using technology to teach and engage students.

“She has a passion for teaching that is second to none,” said Avondale Principal Glenda Bryan commented. “We are so thankful that she is part of our faculty at Avondale.”

Weimer and her husband have a five-year-old daughter, and they are avid Red Wolves fans.

The Arkansas Teacher of the Year competition is part of the National Teacher of the Year Program (NTOY). The NTOY program began in 1952 and continues as the oldest, most prestigious national honors program that focuses public attention on excellence in teaching.

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Ali Weimer

Ali Weimer addresses the teacher intern orientation session.