Jane Brutsman Started ’Teaching’ as a Child; Now She Holds Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

May 3, 2004 — At age 5, Jane Brutsman begged her father for a fort made from scrap lumber, where she could play school. What she got was a teepee with a frame of leftover logs. It had plywood siding and a rope at the top, holding it all together. Her older sister painted a Central Indian above the entrance and within days, Brutsman’s "school" was open. "I taught, lectured and ’disciplined’ imaginary children for hours," she recalls. "In my school everyone succeeded. I dreamed of nothing less. At an early age, my soul had made up its mind; I would be a teacher.

"Heroically I could say that I purposely chose teaching, but the truth is, teaching chose me," she adds. "It was etched into my heart and soul long before I knew."

Brutsman fulfilled her destiny - and excelled at it. Today she was among only 10 Wyoming teachers to earn a 2004 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal president and chief executive officer, made the announcement, accompanied by Wyo. Governor Dave Freudenthal; Dr. Cheryl Schroeder, educational consultant representing Dr. Trent Blankenship, superintendent of public instruction; and Gary McDowell, president of the Wyoming Education Association, during a ceremony at Carey Junior High School in Cheyenne. 

"These teachers challenge and inspire students to reach for their dreams," said Leer. "They are helping build a stronger Wyoming and a stronger America one student at a time. Arch Coal is proud to recognize some of the state’s most talented teachers and their tremendous contributions to our society."

Brutsman is a literacy trainer in the Laramie County School District’s Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) literacy program. Her views on teaching are based on beliefs and practices of ancient Native Americans. "Native Americans believed that people are born with unique gifts destined to be shared with the world," Brutsman explains. "It is believed that every tribal member is responsible for guiding each child to full potential. With this philosophy as cornerstone, I wholeheartedly believe in the giftedness of others and purposefully seek to enhance talents already existent within them.

"High expectations and an unparalleled belief in others follow me from my ’teepee days,’" she adds. "My belief that I make a difference each and every day in the lives of others helps students and teachers to focus on their strengths, encourages them to be their best and motivates improvement and change."

Brutsman earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, and a master’s degree at Lesley College, Cambridge, Mass. She currently is working toward a doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wyoming. Brutsman was trained in the Collaborative Literacy Intervention Program and continues to educate herself on current best practices. Based on her work with at-risk sixth-grade students, she published a book analyzing reading strategies for student advancement. She is a Walmart "Teacher of the Year" and was named a "Community Person of the Week" by News Five. She managed the largest book fair ever held in Wyoming, saturating every Cheyenne classroom with books. Brutsman would like to further her education career at the university level. She further supports her community through involvement in a wide range of civic and additional education-related activities.

In addition to recognition, award recipients receive a $2,500 unrestricted cash prize, a distinctive trophy and a classroom plaque. The Arch Coal teacher recognition program features public nomination and peer selection. Arch Coal is supported by the Wyoming Department of Education, the Wyoming Education Association, Taco John’s and MiniMart in program promotion. 

Arch Coal is one of the nation’s largest coal producers and employs approximately 650 people in Wyoming. Arch produces more than 65 million tons of clean-burning, low-sulfur coal annually at its Wyoming operations. The company’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, Mo.