Cody High School’s Jackson Earns Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 29, 2009) – When it came time to decide what she wanted to do with her life, teaching just seemed a natural fit for Tamra DeRudder Jackson. “I truly can only see myself as a teacher,” she notes. “It’s who I am.”

Today the truth of that statement was recognized statewide. Jackson became one of only 10 Wyoming teachers 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.

“After 24 years as a teacher, Tamra Jackson has some words of wisdom for others who are considering the profession,” says Leer. “First, be completely in love with your subject matter, because students positively respond to the example a teacher sets. Also, treat every student as though he or she will be your banker, doctor or building contractor one day,” he adds. “And I agree with Tamra that we must always remember the teaching profession is the foundation for everything else that matters.”

Jackson teaches English courses at Cody High School. One way she engages students is through humor. “I pay better attention to teachers who make me laugh, so I try to find ways to include humor in my own classes,” she explains. “For example, I seek out cartoons that apply to whatever unit I am teaching and put them on the walls and bulletin boards of my classroom. Then I encourage my students to come together to read and share those cartoons, which change with each unit and each new cartoon I find. Next, I challenge them to find humorous articles or cartoons to add to the collection. I also encourage students to ‘spoof’ literature we’re reading.”

“I have been Mrs. Jackson’s student for three inspiring years,” says Catherine Fulkerson. “Mrs. Jackson has taught me to thoroughly appreciate literature and has definitely opened up a part of me that wants to be exposed to as much literature as I can find. Also, being in her class raised my English scores four points on the ACT and three points on the whole test.”

Jackson earned a bachelor’s degree at Montana State University, Bozeman, and a master’s degree at Lesley College, Cambridge, Mass. She continues her development through a range of courses, with main areas of interest in literacy instruction and brain-based learning. Jackson chaired her school’s Literacy Committee for five years, during which time significant progress was made in students’ PAWS (Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students) reading scores. Jackson served on the Teacher Advisory Council of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center for 10 years and as a board member of the Park County Arts Council for six years. She has led six overseas educational tours for students and parents.

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: