Education

Arch Coal Names Davis Teacher Achievement Award Recipient

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Feb. 27, 2008) – When Melanie Rowe Davis thinks about her teaching philosophy, a vision of the 1970s action figure Stretch Armstrong comes to mind. “The amazing thing about Stretch was that he could stretch his arms and legs to protect himself and others from the bad guys,” she notes. “When his work was finished, his body reshaped back into his muscular self, stronger than before and ready to face the next challenge.

“Teaching the whole middle school child is a challenge,” she adds. “To meet this challenge head on and effectively impact student learning, I must attempt feats of flexibility, much like Stretch, realizing that each student learns differently, has a different skill level and comes to my classroom daily with varied emotional and physical needs. Like Stretch, my strength as a teacher is that I can stretch and morph into any form and direction to meet the needs of my students.”

Today Davis “morphed” yet again – and found herself ranked among West Virginia’s top teachers. She was among 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.

“Melanie Davis is a role model from whom we all could learn a valuable lesson,” notes Leer. “She is determined to overcome the challenges of her profession, making her a stronger, more effective teacher – to her own benefit and that of her students, school and state.”

Davis has taught middle school for nearly a decade, most recently at Ritchie County Middle School, Ellenboro, where she teaches language arts to seventh-grade students. One way she holds students’ interest is by “flying them around the world.” They start the year with an airline ticket to a learning adventure that begins the next day.

“All year, we travel from country to country, as we study literature from or about that country,” Davis explains. Once in flight, students flew back in time and were attacked by German bombers over London. After making an emergency landing, they were transported by train to the English countryside – like the characters from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis. “At the end of the year, students look through their passports and reflect on the learning that took place and the changes in their skills and themselves,” she adds.

Davis earned her bachelor’s degree at Millersville University, Millersville, Pa. She has achieved certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, a rewarding experience that made Davis want to help other teachers do the same. As a result, she currently is mentoring two teachers in the certification process. Davis wrote and received a grant enabling her to start a no-cost, after-school drama/forensic program for middle-school students. She also received two grants used to help build a safe and handicap-accessible playground for an elementary school. Afterward, she organized fundraisers to build and install new equipment. Davis further serves her community through other education-related initiatives and community service projects, such as a backpack and school-supply drive for young victims of Hurricane Katrina, in which her students were also involved.

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.