Education

Arch Coal Names Kohler Teacher Achievement Award Recipient

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Feb. 27, 2008) – Gerry R. Kohler strives to make her class as interesting as possible for students. “Some would cringe at the word ‘entertain,’ but I admit I am not above this,” notes Kohler, who’s taught for 28 years. “When I am John Brown, Mother Jones, Mary Chesnut or other characters from history, they can’t take their eyes off me.

“Capitalizing on that enthusiasm in the classroom, I begin to ask them to portray someone,” says Kohler. “Before long, we are re-creating the Salem Witch trials, the Boston Massacre or a Supreme Court case. They are active learners who are engaged in their own learning.”

Today Kohler took part in another historical event. She became one of only 12 teachers statewide to earn a 2008 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, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Paine and West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) President Charles Delauder.

“Gerry Kohler makes every effort to help her students see the past, by actively embracing the excitement and drama of history.” says Leer. “As a result, her students become excited to learn about the people, events and circumstances that shaped our state and nation.”

Kohler teaches U.S. and West Virginia history courses for eighth- and ninth-grade students at VanDevender Junior High School, Ravenswood. “I teach what I call ‘empathetic history,’ the story of real people and the experiences that made them who they were,” she notes. “I want my students not to study, but to become those people. I want them to see what they saw, feel what they felt, smell what they smelled and be able to think like they must have thought.

“I am very motivated by students who tell me that they never liked history and now they do,” she adds. “I keep letters and notes from past students who tell me how much they enjoyed my class and that I made a difference in their lives.”

Kohler earned her bachelor’s degree at West Virginia Wesleyan College and a master’s degree at West Virginia University. She also has achieved national board certification. Kohler is the recipient of five Teaching American History grants and was selected, from teachers across the country, to attend the Gilder Lehrman Summer Institute on Lincoln, at Gettysburg College. Kohler has served as a master teacher for Project TEACH and represented the National Council for History Education (NCHE) at colloquia in different parts of the country. She received the 2006 WV Gilder Lehrman Preserve American History Teacher of the Year Award and the 2006 National Preserve America History Teacher Award, which was presented by First Lady Laura Bush. Kohler further serves her community through involvement in a wide range of volunteer initiatives and encourages her students to do the same.

In addition to recognition, award recipients receive a personal, $2,500 unrestricted cash prize, a distinctive trophy and a classroom plaque. Also, the West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education, a foundation of WVEA, provides public schools of the recipients with $1,000 grants 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, WVEA 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 is one of the nation’s largest coal producers. 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.