Shaffer Named Arch Coal Achievement Award Recipient

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (April 17, 2009) – Gretchen E. Shaffer originally planned to be a math teacher. Then, a tough class almost changed her mind. For a short time, she changed her career goals, but determination and a passion for a career in math education led her back to her first love.

Shaffer’s students are applauding her decision and are pleased that she is being honored today in Charleston. Shaffer 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.

“Gretchen Shaffer engages her students in a variety of activities in which they must think through the discovery and application of concepts,” says Leer. “Gretchen is diligent in developing higher math projects that allow students to apply concepts in real-life applications.”

Shaffer teaches Algebra I and II and Calculus in grades 9 – 12 at Morgantown High School. “My students and I have amazing discussions about math and all my students – even those who have struggled in traditional math classes – are able to contribute,” Shaffer says. “I share with them the problems I run into and we talk about how I work through them.”

“I wanted to love math,” says Natalie Morris, one of Ms. Shaffer’s students. “Some of my friends had Ms. Shaffer and they said she was an awesome teacher. I was transferred to her class and, to my surprise, I actually understood what I was learning! She explains things so well. She also doesn’t stick to the math book. Her classes are constantly playing math games and real life problems. In the real life problems, she takes the time to look up information that relates to the subject she is teaching that day. This gives her students a better understanding where they will use this information again.”

Shaffer has a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and a master’s degree from Frostburg State University, Hagerstown, Md. She was selected to be in the first West Virginia Teacher Leadership Institute, has been a model teacher for Algebra I and II and Geometry for the state of West Virginia and acted as a lead teacher at the 21st century teaching conference for the Monongalia County schools. She also collaborated at her school to develop a course to assist students who needed to review or improve their math, reading, science and English skills for the college entrance examinations.

She is a sponsor of the student council at her school, which helps in the community by preparing and serving meals at a homeless shelter and coordinating food drives. Shaffer also works with her students and their parents on the “Mohawk Idol” for the West Virginia University Children’s Hospital. “It is a program that enables students and parents to see just how important it is to reach out to others and make a difference in our community,” says Shaffer.

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.