Sage Valley Junior High’s Mathes Earns Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 29, 2009) – When the time came for Christy Mathes to begin college, her parents encouraged her to become a teacher. “My mother, specifically, pushed the issue as something I was a ‘natural’ at doing,” she recalls. “Yeah, right. I was 18 and knew it all. Needless to say, I entered college dead set to be anything but a teacher.

“It’s funny how life kind of likes to wave the absolutes of youth in your face,” adds Mathes. “After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I started working in computer programming. It took me all of one year to figure out working with machines all day is not satisfying for me. I enrolled in the Northern Plains Transition to Teaching Program at Montana State University and took my first teaching job four months later. I have been happily engaged in that profession for the last five years.”

It’s also “funny” how parents can often see a child’s talent long before that child knows it exists. Turns out, Mathes is indeed a natural at teaching. In fact, today she became one of only 10 teachers statewide to receive a 2009 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal chairman and chief executive officer, made the announcement during a presentation ceremony at the Buffalo Ridge Elementary School. Leer was accompanied by Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, First Lady Nancy Freudenthal, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jim McBride and Wyoming Education Association (WEA) Vice President Craig Williams.

“Christy Mathes serves as a source of stability for her students, demonstrating to them honesty and hard work,” says Leer. “She works with them each day to improve their skills – not only in science, but also in life.”

Mathes teaches integrated science courses to eighth-grade students at Sage Valley Junior High School, Gillette. She believes every child can find success and achieve progress. “While not every child wants to be a biologist, they all like to watch the animals and to find solutions to problems,” Mathes notes. “Some find interest they never knew they had. I even have a couple of boys working on setting up a Web cam for ‘after hours’ observations from the school Web site. This is the type of learning that I facilitate in my classroom.”

Mathes earned her bachelor’s degree at Black Hills State University, Spearfish, S.D., and a master’s degree at South Dakota State University, Brookings. She continues her development through courses focused on ways to better engage students, allow for differentiations and develop skills for lifelong learning. Her goals include pursuing National Board Certification and a doctorate in Education Administration. Mathes co-chairs the school improvement and writing committees. She further supports her community as secretary/treasurer of the Northeast Wyoming Dive Club, which helps clean up large bodies of water. Mathes also participates in fundraising and political advocacy for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The award is underwritten by the Arch Coal Foundation. In addition to recognition, award recipients receive a personal, $3,500 unrestricted cash prize, a distinctive trophy and a classroom plaque. Nominations of the teachers are made by the public, and selection is made by a blue-ribbon panel of the teachers’ peers, all former recipients of the Arch Coal award.

This is the ninth year the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards have been made in Wyoming. The program is supported by the Department of Education, the Wyoming Education Association, Taco John’s, Loaf ‘N Jug, and the Wyoming library community.

The Arch Coal Foundation also is a supporter of teacher recognition or grant programs in West Virginia, Utah and Colorado, as well as a number of other education-related causes.

Arch Coal is one of the nation’s largest coal producers, and its Thunder Basin Coal Company subsidiary employs more than 1,200 people in Wyoming. Thunder Basin’s Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines sold 100 million tons of cleaner-burning, low-sulfur coal in 2008. Arch Coal is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Mo.

Information about each of the 10 recipients is posted on the Arch Coal Web site: