New Haven’s Tennant Receives Arch Coal Achievement Award

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (April 17, 2009) – New Haven’s Rhonda Tennant has taught for 35 years. She could retire, but retirement is not in her plans. “I have a passion for my profession. I have found my niche in life and I love what I am doing,” she says.

Today, Tennant joined a select group of other teachers who also love being in the classroom. Tennant 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.

“Rhonda Tennant captures the energy of her students, having them write and then act out plays,” says Leer. “One year her students built a huge teepee in the middle of the classroom, another year they made an igloo from milk jugs and another time ‘aliens’ emerged from a flying saucer built by her students. It is easy to understand why her students stay engaged in her classroom.”

Tennant teaches fourth grade at New Haven Elementary, New Haven. “So many times students think they can’t, before they even try,” says Tennant. “The most important thing I do for my students is to help them believe in themselves. I always stress the positive. I like to see them try, to reap the benefits of their own productivity, recognizing they have talents and abilities. They realize that the biggest winners in our society are just like them, putting forth their best effort.”

“She has a genuine interest and affection for the students she teaches,” says co-worker and fellow teacher Gewanna Nichols. “She is aware of her students’ individual needs and strives daily to give her pupils the attention necessary to meet those needs, whether they are academic or personal. Her enthusiasm for teaching is contagious and shines through everything she does.”

Tennant has a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, and a master’s degree plus 60 hours of additional college credits from Marshall University. She has received the Arch Coal Golden Apple Award, been a finalist for the Mason County Teacher of the Year and is a two-time recipient of the Michael Jordan Education Foundation’s Teacher Achiever Award. Tennant also has been an exchange teacher with teachers from Japan, an experience that allowed her to teach elementary, high school and college students in Japan about West Virginia and the United States.

She also is active in her community, judging essay or art contests sponsored by the local 4-H clubs, participating in local diabetes and cancer walks, tutoring and supporting the local animal shelter. Her class is currently corresponding with two soldiers in Iraq.

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.