Rief Wins Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

May 3, 2005 – Kirsten Rochelle Rief strives to create more than a learning environment for her students. “When children come into the classroom and find a sanctuary from the outer world of pressure, stress and chaos, then I know I have done my job,” she says. 

“Creating this place of sanctuary and motivating students to tap their learning strengths are two ways I challenge myself to continue to become a better teacher,” Rief adds. “Ensuring that the classroom includes small pleasures, such as warm hot chocolate on a cold day, a trusting environment where any type of experience can be shared, and learning experiences that motivate and captivate growing minds are just a few examples of the ways I achieve this.”

Today Rief was recognized for much more than her warm heart – and her students’ warm stomachs! She was one of only 10 teachers statewide to earn a 2005 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal president and chief executive officer, made the announcement during a presentation ceremony this afternoon at Buffalo Ridge Elementary School, where Rief teaches sixth grade. Leer was accompanied by Governor Dave Freudenthal, Wyoming First Lady Nancy Freudenthal, Wyoming Department of Education Chief of Staff Lisa Skiles Parady, and Wyoming Education Association Executive Director Jean Hayek.

“It is exciting for Arch Coal to share the amazing talents of its Wyoming teacher achievement award recipients,” said Leer. “It’s especially enjoyable to celebrate and recognize Kirsten Rief for her classroom teaching talents in front of her students at today’s ceremony at Buffalo Ridge school.” 

Fifth-grade teacher Frank Miller notes, “Seldom in my 30 years of teaching experience have I had the privilege to work with such a professional, caring and involved educator. Kirsten is a tireless, energetic and high expectations type of educator. 

“She is able to motivate students to achieve beyond what they thought they could ever achieve,” Miller continues. “And yet she is so masterful in this that the student feels this is all in a day’s work. She helps them celebrate their success, learn from, but never fear, failure, and set goals that they would have never believed they could have achieved.

“Kirsten does all of this with such a professional, caring approach that I, for one, would love to spend just a day working in her classroom to gain some of her professional insight into teaching,” concludes Miller.

Rief earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming at Laramie. She continues her education and development through participation in and as a presenter at seminars, conferences and institutes. She helps students academically before and after school and served as Building Intervention Team chairman, helping teachers find methods for assisting at-risk students. Rief has been her district’s Teacher of the Year and was nominated several times for the Walt Disney Creativity in Teaching Award. She was recognized as a distinguished educator by the National Energy Foundation and is a Channel Five Golden Apple recipient. Her next professional goal is to complete a master’s degree in curriculum development. Rief further supports her community as a volunteer in several betterment-related activities.

In addition to recognition, teacher award recipients receive a $2,500 unrestricted, personal cash award, a distinctive trophy and a 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 Loaf ‘n Jug in program promotion. This is the fifth year Arch Coal has made the awards in Wyoming.

Arch Coal is the nation’s second largest coal producer and employs approximately 900 people in Wyoming. Arch Coal’s Black Thunder mine sells more than 90 million tons of clean-burning, low-sulfur coal on an annual basis. Located in Campbell County, Black Thunder mine is one of the largest and most efficient coal mines in the world. Arch Coal is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Mo.