Leora Ann Will Named Arch Coal Teacher Award Recipient

May 3, 2005 – Leora Ann Will attributes her teaching philosophy to another woman who spent her life serving others. “Mother Theresa once said, ’The fruit of knowledge is understanding. The fruit of understanding is love. The fruit of love is service,’” notes Will. “I chose the teaching profession, specifically special education, to help young people with disabilities have a chance to realize that they, too, can make their dreams become a reality.

“Growing up, I watched many educators and others show no compassion or patience for the special youth in my community,” Will adds. “I felt these young people had a great deal of potential, if only given the chance. They needed a teacher who understood that they may learn differently than others and may need someone to take the time to nurture and encourage them on an individual basis.”

Will became such a teacher and more. Today 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. 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.

“Special education teachers are special people in my book,” said Leer. “Leora is one of the teachers we entrust with the students who learn differently than others and who must have significant, individual support. Match a loving and encouraging attitude with special education teaching skills and you have Leora. Arch Coal is proud to recognize her professionalism, caring attitude, and success.”

Will teaches special education courses at Newcastle High School, Newcastle, Wyo. “In order to positively influence the lives of young people, I must be able to model and teach them the value of trust, love and service to others,” she says. 

“I try to put myself in their place. Many of them come from shattered, dysfunctional homes and need a place and a reason to belong. Our classroom becomes a safe place, with a warm, inviting atmosphere, a place of mutual respect and dignity,” she adds. “Giving students this type of environment to work in makes my teaching more effective, because in order to get respect, you must first earn respect.” 

Will earned her bachelor’s degree at Black Hills State University, Spearfish, S.D. She makes learning about the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and new amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) acts a top priority. Will serves as president of the Wyoming Federation of the Council for Exceptional Children and works with the Wyoming Student Council Organization. She is adviser for the Newcastle High School Student Council, which has earned the “Honor Council with Meritorious Distinction” status for the past two years. In the future, Will would like to earn National Board Certification and to pursue a career in counseling. She also has served her community through involvement in church, Little League Baseball, 4-H, Boy Scouts of America and other civic- and education-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.