Gayla Hickle Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (April 17, 2009) – Gayla Hickle says she always has been drawn to improve the lives of students with exceptional needs.

Today, Hickle was noted for her exceptional teaching abilities. She 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.

“Gayla Hickle provides her special needs students with the tools they need to succeed in life,” says Leer. “Not only does she help them become successful, valuable employees, she also helps her students develop the tools to lead full, responsible, rewarding lives.”

Hickle teaches special education and job exploration at Parkersburg High School. “My desire for the end result of my teaching is to produce confident, contributing members of society,” says Hickle. “As I have progressed in my teaching career, I found my educational philosophy evolving. Now, I provide my students with actual work experience. I look for practical application of classroom lessons and address programs that will enrich a student’s transition from high school to community life. When students see a connection to future employment possibilities, they become responsible for their own education.”

“Gayla has many students who have no role model or guidance in their homes,” says Pamela Goots, her school’s assistant principal. “She often has to address hygiene, appropriate behavior and other more sensitive issues with her students. She is always empathetic, but firm, and truly sees the promise and potential in each and every one of her students.”

Hickle, who has taught for 33 years in the Wood County Schools, has a bachelor’s degree from California State College, California, Pa., and a master’s degree from West Virginia University. She also is a National Board Certified Teacher. She has attended the West Virginia Center for Professional Development Summer Institute and is certified in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention.

She is her school’s student council Valentine activity sponsor, has coordinated her school’s Day on Campus program and has been the coordinator of a “Shadow Program,” which allows students the opportunity to apply for jobs, to be interviewed and hired. Also, she has served as the high school swim team’s treasurer and has been a deacon and now serves as an elder at her church.

Hickle instructs students in the school’s Community Integration Work program. The training for this is the actual job site for high school seniors. Hickle wrote and received a grant that provides students with an incentive paycheck each nine weeks. She also is a member of a committee that organizes, coordinates and implements a job fair for special needs students.

While assisting her students with transition to life after school, she also has recognized a need for the students to live fuller lives. To answer that need, Hickle designed a program that enhances other facets of the students’ lives for leisure time.

“Many of the students have no social contact or activities outside the workplace,” says Hickle. “I feel a great sense of pride from watching and interacting with the students as they learned to play card games, became junior firefighters and experimented with a kayaking simulator. Many are fearful, as we all are, of new experiences, but with encouragement, they try new activities and find that they are having fun.”

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 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.