Tony W. Nichols Earns Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

February 25, 2004 — "From my earliest recollection, I knew that I wanted to teach," says Tony W. Nichols, a kindergarten teacher at Cherry River Elementary. "Teachers always inspire others, and I was no exception. Teachers were the epitome of respect and good living for me."

After nearly two decades in the profession, teaching has become Nichols’ life. "It is so second nature that I can’t imagine getting up in the morning and going anywhere else but school," he says.

Today, however, Nichols made a trip to the state capital, where he was one of only 10 West Virginia teachers to receive a 2004 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal president and chief executive officer, made the announcement, accompanied by West Virginia Governor Bob Wise; Secretary of Education and Arts Kay Goodwin; State Schools Superintendent Dr. David Stewart; and WVEA President Tom Lange, in a presentation ceremony at the state capitol.

"When I see the accomplishments of our honorees, I know the students of West Virginia are in good hands," says Leer. "Each day, these teachers challenge, inspire and help students develop a passion for life-long learning. Arch Coal is proud to recognize some of the state’s most talented teachers."

"Mr. Nichols is not only an outstanding teacher, but also a mentor for my children," says parent Michael Gray. "I first met Mr. Nichols four short years ago, when he taught my oldest son, Shawn, who has cerebral palsy and was not looking forward to school. 

"This all changed within the first week after attending Mr. Nichols’ class. He did not isolate Shawn as a student with a disability, but saw him as a student with special potential. It is very important for a child to feel special, and Mr. Nichols does this with all of his students.

"He also taught my second son, Hunter, who soon found out why Shawn always came home talking about what they had done in Mr. Nichols’ class. Hunter is now in the third grade and can only talk about doing one thing when he grows up - he wants to be a teacher, just like Mr. Nichols."

Nichols earned his bachelor’s degree at Alderson Broaddus College, Philippi, W.Va.; and a master’s degree at West Virginia University, Morgantown. His future plans include pursuing national board certification. He is a W.Va. Reading Academy and Informal Math Assessment program participant and a master trainer for content standards. Nichols’ ideas also have been published in various teacher magazines. He is a Nicholas County Teacher of the Year and was a top-five finalist for W.Va. Teacher of the Year. He further serves his community as a 4-H Club leader and is president of the Nicholas County 4-H Leaders Association. Nichols is a member of the WVU Nicholas County Extension Service Committee and the Nicholas County Parks and Recreation Commission. He participates in a community choir, teaches folk dancing throughout W.Va., and helps present an annual school/community talent show and play. 

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. The West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education is making a $1,000 award to each recipient’s school for use with at-risk students.

Arch Coal is supported by the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Education Association and Speedway in program promotion. Arch Coal’s Teacher Achievement Awards is the longest running, privately sponsored teacher recognition program in the state.

Arch Coal is the nation’s second largest coal producer and a supplier of clean-burning, low-sulfur coal exclusively. Approximately 2,000 people are employed at Arch’s operations in West Virginia. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis.