Creed Collins Elementary School’s Benedum Lands Arch Coal Achievement Award

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (April 17, 2009) – Diana Benedum is the third in a line of educators in her family, following her mother and her Aunt Myrtle. Her aunt taught for an astounding 72 years.

Benedum already has taught for 25 years herself, and, today, she will receive an award that wasn’t around when her Aunt Myrtle was a classroom teacher. Benedum was one of only 12 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 Clay Center in Charleston. He was accompanied by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, First Lady Gayle Manchin and West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) President Dale Lee.

“Her elementary school students learn in a technologically advanced classroom,” says Leer. “As a businessman and father, I appreciate educators like Diana who are in touch with new technologies. Her ability to mesh the high-tech with her seasoned experience allows Diana to reach and teach each student.”

Benedum teaches fourth grade at Creed Collins Elementary School in Pennsboro. “I treasure the shine of pride in a child’s eyes when he or she grasps a concept,” says Benedum. “It is of the utmost importance to address the whole child. Would you build a home without running water or windows?”

In her class each year students enjoy “Pumpkin Day” – a day set aside to frost pumpkin cookies they have made and to explore the color wheel. Her “Fourth Grade Walking Club” outings are fun for students, parents, grandparents and school staff.

“Mrs. Benedum has high expectations for each student and demonstrates a belief that all children achieve,” says Deborah Bever, a director of federal programs in Harrisville, W.Va. “She makes learning fun and relevant and creates a safe, productive and well-managed classroom where students are greeted with consistency, fairness and structure.”

Benedum has spent her entire 25-year teaching career in the Ritchie County schools. She holds an associate degree from the University of North Florida, Jacksonville, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, Gainesville and a master’s degree from West Virginia University-Parkersburg. “The Solution Site,” funded by the Benedum Foundation, includes two unit plans that she developed, “Under the Rain Forest” and “Money Money.” She has written science grants that have provided more than $6,000 in funds for her school, has been Ritchie County’s Spelling Bee coordinator for nine years, and, in 2008, joined master teachers from throughout the state to teach Science with Inquiry Modules and Problem-based Learning Experiments (SIMPLE) to students and educators. In 2007, Benedum attended the state’s Teacher Leadership Institute and, in 2008, she attended as her county’s coordinator.

She serves as a Sunday school teacher at her church, supports school clubs and sporting events in school leagues, is a member of her school’s PTO, the county education association and also is a member of the Ritchie County Teacher Leadership Team.

In addition to recognition, award recipients receive a $3,500 unrestricted cash prize, a distinctive trophy and a classroom plaque. The West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education, a foundation of WVEA, 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 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.

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

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. In West Virginia, Arch Coal subsidiaries operate the Mountain Laurel and Coal-Mac operations. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Mo.