Starrett Junior High’s Howlett Earns Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 29, 2009) – Melanie Kay Howlett entered the teaching profession as a means of sharing a combined passion for art and learning. “Art permits me to introduce my students to concrete experiences that reach across disciplines, increasing their understanding of themselves, others and the world,” she notes.

“I am excited by the work they produce in lessons designed to develop the skills necessary to succeed and thrive in the 21st century,” adds Howlett. “I approach the profession of teaching with a strong knowledge and love of my subject – and an equally strong belief that my students will become more productive learners and citizens as a result of the attitudes and abilities gained in my classroom.”

Today Howlett’s passion was recognized far beyond her classroom. 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.

“Melanie Howlett bases her relationships with students on mutual respect, teaching them to approach problems responsibly, creatively and cooperatively,” says Leer. “At the same time, she delights in their academic, creative, athletic and leadership accomplishments. But the most important thing Melanie does for students is to share her own joy and excitement for learning.”

With 34 years as an educator, Howlett teaches art courses to seventh- and eighth-grade students at Starrett Junior High School, Lander. “I have witnessed the excellence that Melanie elicits from her students ever since my first child began producing amazing art in her class in 1986,” notes Julie Lefevre, a fellow teacher, whose four children all developed pride and self-expression under Howlett’s tutelage. “Melanie strives to educate the whole child, so she often brings writing into the arts classroom, both to enhance students’ self-expression and to carry the skills she fosters in art over into their academic classes.”

Howlett earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, and she has completed 96 hours of coursework beyond her degree. She is a recipient of the Wyoming Middle Level Art Educator of the Year Award and an Arch Coal Golden Apple Certificate. She sponsors an after-school art club and is spearheading a school-wide celebration of Native American Day. Through National Endowment funding, she organized a community event called Imagination Celebration that heightened awareness of the diversity and value of personal expression. Following 9/11, Howlett initiated a community event called United We Stand that generated funds for American Red Cross recovery efforts.

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: