Education

Paula D. White Earns Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (March 5, 2006) – In all honesty, Paula D. White never dreamed of becoming a teacher. “I came to it for lack of a strong enough dream of my own,” she recalls. “I wanted to be an artist or a writer or, rather, what I imagined an artist and a writer to be. So many times when I was young, I wished for a knowledgeable teacher or mentor to help me rescue my youthful dreams from vagueness.

“When I began teaching, I knew that was the kind of teacher I wanted – and still want – to be, especially for those who aspire to a career in the arts,” adds White. “We drink fatalism in the water in rural southern West Virginia, but I have learned to spit it out.”

Although White never dreamed of becoming a teacher, she ranks among West Virginia’s best. Today she was one of only 12 teachers statewide to receive a 2007 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal chairman and chief executive officer, made the announcement during a presentation ceremony at the state capitol. He was accompanied by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin; First Lady Gayle Manchin; Arch Coal President and Chief Operating Officer John Eaves; and West Virginia Education Association President Charles Delauder.

“West Virginia is fortunate to have such excellent classroom teachers as Paula White,” says Leer. “She has a teaching outlook that everyone should admire: ‘I do not, will not, ever lack faith in the potential of the students who come into my classroom.’”

White teaches creative writing, public speaking and art courses at Chapmanville High School. “I believe that everything I do in my classroom matters, from the way I say ‘hello’ in the morning to how I handle spills in visual arts,” she notes. “I also believe that I must be ‘the same’ each day. As trite as it sounds, I try to be nice.

“My aunt once told me teachers are responsible for passing along civilization,” White adds. “I think the heart of this lies in helping students understand subtlety and develop sympathy. It also lies in how we act when things are not going well for us. As another instructor told me long ago, ‘You must be older than they are.’”

“It may be true that Ms. White did not want to become a teacher, but her dream of being an artist did not completely die,” notes Devon Bennett, a senior at Chapmanville. “Everything happens for a reason, and because of her, there will be many artists and writers in this generation. Thanks to her, I am determined to evolve to my greatest potential.”

With more than 30 years in the teaching profession, White earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Marshall University. An advocate of lifelong learning, she continues her development through professional and personal participation in numerous writing institutes, conferences, competitions and related initiatives. White earned first prize in poetry in a Byline Magazine competition and is working on a collection of short stories set in the Guyandotte Valley. As a member of Logan’s first Artist-in-Residence Committee, she helps bring artists to Logan schools. White’s own work has been shown at the Huntington Museum of Art, the Sunrise Museum and at the W.Va. Arts and Crafts Fair. She further supports her community through music education, cultural and church activities. “My students have benefited from all of this,” White says. “What I learn, I pass on.”

In addition to recognition, award recipients receive a $2,500 unrestricted cash prize, a distinctive trophy and a classroom plaque. The West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education makes a $1,000 award to each recipient’s school, for use with at-risk students.

The teacher recognition awards are underwritten by the Arch Coal Foundation and supported in program-promotion by the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia Library Commission. The Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards is the longest running, privately sponsored teacher recognition program in the state. Nominations of the teachers are made by the public, and selection is made by a blue-ribbon panel of the teachers’ peers – previous recipients of the award.

Arch Coal, Inc. is the nation’s second largest coal producer. The company’s core business is providing U.S. power generators with clean-burning, low-sulfur coal for electric generation. Through its national network of mines, Arch supplies the fuel for approximately 6 percent of the electricity generated in the United States. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Mo.

Information about each of the 12 recipients is posted on the Arch Coal Web site: www.archcoal.com.