Photo by Jeylin White
CNN Student News anchor Carl Azuz in action at CNN headquarters in Atlanta.
Janice Douglas’ seventh-grade class at Ola Middle School waited with anticipation on a Friday afternoon, eager to watch the CNN Student News podcast, a ritual since the beginning of the school year.
Students sat quietly at their desks, hands crossed, their eyes fixed on the screen in the middle of the room, listening to CNN Student News anchor Carl Azuz’s comical persona on the current major stories and events happening around the world.
“The kids really look forward to watching Carl Azuz — and his corny jokes,” said Douglas. “He really knows how to keep the kids engaged.”
Azuz, tall, trim and dark-haired, has been anchoring the show for four years and uses his easy-going nature to engage his young audience.
“You got to be real,” he said. “Don’t try to be cool. Students are going to respond to you if you just be yourself. And if you drop a few puns here and there, it usually works out.”
Donna Krache, executive producer for CNN Student News, said the show is a 10-minute, commercial-free daily news program for middle and high school students.
“CNN Student News reaches millions of students across the world, which is a whole different kind of classroom,” said the former high school social studies teacher. “Teachers can use it free of charge. There’s no strings attached.” The award-winning show, she added, is produced by journalists and educators at CNN.
Ola seventh-graders Jordan Reeves and her classmate Ethan Zakrewski, both 12, were present in class on that sunny Friday afternoon, and until recently neither was interested in watching the news.
"The news can be so boring," said Reeves. "I like the show because it caters to kids our age. It's more exciting than the regular news."
"I like it because I can see everything I need in 10 minutes," said the frail 12-year-old boy.
Krache said teachers can also download questions from the website that students can answer after each show. She said this helps with the students’ comprehension and reading skills, which is one of the main objectives of why Douglas said she uses the program.
"It really improves the students' listening skills," said the gentle and patient seventh-grade teacher. "There are so many benefits for students watching the program."
In Douglas' class on Friday, students learned about the election, the West Nile Virus, and Diana Nyad, an American author, journalist, and long-distance swimmer noted for her world-record endurance championships.
A few of the questions students answered were the following:
- What is the significance about the current West Nile virus outbreak?
- Why did Diana Nyad stop her swim from Cuba to Florida?
- According to the program: What accomplishments might indicate that President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney are each qualified to be president?
Reeves said the program and answering the questions has helped her academically, especially on her tests. "On the show we learned about the Middle East and that’s what I have been learning in class this year, said the brown-eyed girl.
Krache began working at CNN in 1999, after quitting her job as teacher in Louisiana. She said working on the student news production was a dream come true.
"I wanted to stay in education, but at the time licensing was different in (Georgia)," she said. She added the program has allowed her to combine both the worlds she loves.
"This show helps connects the student to what they are learning in the classroom to the real world," she said. "That’s the beauty of this whole thing. I can give you a textbook definition of a recession in your economics book, but if I show you the impact the economic downturn is having on the community [it will] stay with kids longer. This is the digital generation."
Azuz agreed. He said both of his parents were teachers, so he knows how students respond to information.
"It's amazing how students latch on to current events," said the University of Georgia graduate. "I'll be honest with you: I didn't watch the news when I was in middle or high school. We didn’t have CNN Student News in our classroom and I just wasn’t engaged."
He said whenever he visits schools in the metro Atlanta area, students are always telling him they enjoy watching the news now, because of the program.
"News is urgent and usually there is something we are trying to convey, and if you can convey it well, it gives you a sense of gratification," said Azuz. "It's a sign that we're doing something right."
Another feature on the program students seemed to like in Douglas' class was the "classroom shoutout." Krache said students can send in photos of their school or class with a shoutout request, where their school will be shown during one of the pre-taped shows.
To find out more about the show, materials and free podcasts visit CNNStudentNews.com.