Education

Rawlins Cooperative High School’s Lewman Receives Arch Coal Achievement Award

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 27, 2010) - Some people decide they want to teach in early childhood. But that wasn’t the case for Willie Lewman. “I was one of the ‘at-risk,’ troubled students; a student some teachers would probably rather have not had in their class,” he recalls. “My wrestling coach had a heart-to-heart talk with me about where my life was going. I realized if I continued down the path I was taking, the end was not what I really wanted.”

Today Lewman walked a path only a special few get to take. He was one of only 10 teachers statewide to receive a 2010 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal chairman and chief executive officer, made the announcement during a presentation ceremony at the Wyoming House of Representatives. Leer was accompanied by Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jim McBride and Wyoming Education Association (WEA) President Kathryn Valido. This is the 10th year the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards have been made in Wyoming.

“Twenty-two years after he graduated from high school, years that included an eight-year stint in the U.S. army and a successful first career, Willie Lewman returned to college to prepare for what he’d always known he was meant to do – teach,” says Leer. “Willie is an excellent example of the importance of lifelong learning and of never giving up on your goals and dreams.”

Lewman teaches algebra, geometry, trigonometry, consumer math and the Discovery Program at Rawlins Cooperative High School. “Being a classroom teacher is a very challenging profession; it requires dedication and sincere care for the students,” he says. “I believe that as a teacher I need to continue learning new and creative ways to reach my students.

“Students can be under great pressure from family, friends, coaches and teachers pushing them to succeed,” adds Lewman. “Many of them have no idea what they want to do with their lives. Yet people are trying to get them to commit to a direction that they believe is best for them. I try to find what they are interested in and feed their interests. When they are excited about something, learning is more meaningful to them. Some may even want to be teachers.”

“Willie has a passionate interest in helping students and has an intuitive way of knowing ‘where students are’ to help them with math or life’s issues,” says co-worker Kristina Graham, a school counselor.

Lewman earned an associate degree at Western Nebraska Community College, Scottsbluff, and a bachelor’s degree at Chadron State College in Nebraska. “I believe that being a lifelong learner is the most important thing in life,” he says. “If we stop learning about the community, state and world in which we live, we are destined to become apathetic. I believe learning and growing keep hope alive.” Toward that end, he will begin pursuit of a master’s degree at the University of Wyoming this fall. Lewman also continues to expand his knowledge through participation in education-related initiatives, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics convention, Discovery Training and a Roger Taylor conference on differentiating curriculum. He is a mentor teacher and further serves his community by teaching a GED math class at the Adult Learning Center and co-teaching his school’s Discovery Program for parents and students.

Each recipient of the Teacher Achievement Award receives a distinctive trophy, a classroom plaque and a $3,500 personal, cash award. 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.

The Wyoming Department of Education, the Wyoming Education Association, the Wyoming library community, Taco John’s and Loaf ‘N Jug stores are longstanding supporters of the program.

The Arch Coal Foundation also is a supporter of teacher-recognition programs in West Virginia, Utah and Colorado, as well as a number of other education-related causes.

Arch Coal, Inc. is the nation’s second largest coal producer. Arch Coal’s subsidiaries Thunder Basin Coal Company and Arch of Wyoming employ approximately 1,800 people in Wyoming. Thunder Basin’s Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines produce approximately 12 percent of the annual U.S. coal supply. Arch Coal is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Mo.