Education

Blennerhassett Middle School’s Minigh Receives Arch Coal Achievement Award

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (April 17, 2009) – Eric Minigh had teachers when he was in school that made sure he was not just another face in the room. Throughout his 34-year teaching career, he has tried to do the same for his students.

Today, Minigh was a very special “face in the room.” He 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.

“Eric Minigh’s approach to his math students is one of application – how math will be used in real life,” says Leer. “By explaining the way a math concept is used in daily life, he creates an interest in the information that might not otherwise exist.”

Remembering his own school experiences, Minigh, who teaches eighth grade math at Blennerhassett Middle School, Parkersburg, has determined that he would be “the teacher my students remember when they become adults.” To accomplish that goal, he addresses the different learning styles and abilities of his students as he presents information. He works one-on-one with students who need further explanation, giving them examples and support. He also has found that having his students work in pairs encourages his students to work together and help each other, which provides better learning results. Minigh also offers extra help to students during home room and after school and at special tutoring sessions on Tuesday afternoons at his school.

In Minigh’s classroom, lessons focus on realistic applications of math in daily life. For example, you might find his students transferring the measurements of their homes to graph paper, making parachutes to determine proper flight design or measuring the size of antlers.

“Mr. Minigh has made a lifelong commitment to educate the students,” says his principal, James Hostottle. “He expects the students to perform at their best and encourages them to excel. He has the gift of connecting with his students that the average person does not have. Students look forward to his class because of his interest in them both as persons and as math students.”

Minigh has a bachelor’s degree from Glenville State College, a master’s degree from Salem-Teikyo College and 54 hours of additional college credits from West Virginia University. He has also received National Board Certification. He has been a presenter at two West Virginia State Middle School Conferences. “I try to be whatever students need to help them be successful,” Minigh says. “Depending on the situation, sometimes they need a teacher, sometimes a friend, sometimes a father, sometimes a supporter and sometimes just someone to give them a hug. Given many family situations today, I am a more successful teacher if the students trust me and know that I care for their well-being.”

He acknowledges that the ability to get close to students can also be a potential teaching weakness. “It is easy to get involved in trying to heal them and forget my primary purpose as a math teacher,” relates Minigh. “I cannot let my empathy for troubled students allow me to neglect their education and preparation for the future.”

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.