Education

Jessup Elementary’s Pia Hansen Powell Nets Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Cheyenne (May 3, 2002) - As she walked down a Jessup Elementary hallway, Pia Hansen Powell pondered on why she had chosen the teaching profession 25 years earlier. Then she felt a small hand slip into hers. She looked down into the face of a first-grade student who asked, “What are we going to study now?”

“We had just finished an integrated unit about Penguins, and this young man couldn’t wait to hear what the next topic would be,” she recalls. “That curiosity is what motivates me to continue to teach!”

Cats might think otherwise, but curiosity is a powerful force in terms of education. Powell saw further proof of this today. She was one of only 10 Wyoming teachers to receive a 2002 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award.

Steven F. Leer, president and chief executive officer of Arch Coal, made the announcement. Gov. Jim Geringer, Superintendent of Public Instruction Judy Catchpole, and Wyoming Education Association Communications Director Ron Sniffin joined Leer at a ceremony at Jessup Elementary School in Cheyenne, which honored award recipients.

“Arch Coal is pleased to honor 10 excellent Wyoming teachers, who every day bring the magic of learning to their students,” Leer says. “We believe that great classroom teachers are primary, positive influences in American education. I know these teachers dare their students to succeed — and then teach them how!”

Powell, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, teaches first- and second-grade students.

“Pia is a master teacher,” notes Jessup Elementary’s Principal, Dr. Sharon Knudson. “Her classroom environment supports student learning and is warm, nurturing and learning filled. In October, I observed a math lesson, where students were finding patterns, using a class paper quilt they had constructed. One student was exploring square roots and trying out his theories. Another student was doing a counting activity. Both were using the quilt to support their explorations. This type of activity is typical of how students learn in Pia’s classroom.”

“She makes the classroom engaging, and I am always impressed with the subtle mental challenges she puts forth to the children. They are developing very nimble minds,” adds Shawn Mallory, vice president of Gater Industries, and a parent and classroom volunteer.

“Encouraging my students to believe in themselves, communicate clearly and become critical thinkers is the most important thing I do,” says Powell. “I try to model a strong work ethic, compassion, citizenship and humor in my daily interactions. My saddest days are when I realize that all my efforts were not enough! Then, I set out to find what I can do differently. That’s what drives me to improve my teaching practices.”

Each award recipient receives a $2,500 unrestricted cash award and a distinctive glass trophy, in addition to other recognition. The Arch Coal teacher recognition program is unique because it features public nomination and peer selection. This is the second year for the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards in Wyoming.

The Department of Education, the Wyoming Education Association, Taco John’s and MiniMart support Arch Coal in the program.

Arch Coal is the nation’s second largest coal producer and employs more than 500 people in Wyoming. The company annually produces more than 65 million tons of clean-burning, low-sulfur coal at its Wyoming operations. Arch’s Black Thunder operation, in Campbell County, is one of the nation’s largest and most efficient coal mines. Arch Coal is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis.