Willard Elementary School’s Henriksen Receives Arch Achievement Award

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 13, 2011) – Chris Henriksen wanted to become a teacher at an early age. “I would play school with siblings and friends. Yet because I insisted on being the teacher, I often played school with dolls and stuffed animals,” she recalls. “I would fill out worksheets, teach lessons and grade papers for a classroom of students who never responded. Hours were spent in my very own classroom,” Henriksen adds. “My dream never changed, and I am proud to say I still have the dream to teach after 33 years in the profession.”

Henriksen not only achieved her dream of becoming a teacher, she ranks among Wyoming’s best. Today she was one of only 10 teachers statewide to receive a 2011 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Arch Coal Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steven F. Leer made the announcement during a presentation ceremony at Carey Junior High School in Cheyenne. Leer was accompanied by Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and Wyoming Education Association (WEA) Executive Director Craig Williams. This is the 11th year the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards have been made in Wyoming.

“Chris Henriksen’s teaching philosophy is simple – provide a warm, safe and caring environment so that students feel comfortable enough in her classroom to take risks, ask questions and make mistakes,” says Leer. “She believes every child is able to learn and that it’s her job to provide opportunities and strategies for every child to be successful.”

An Evansville resident, Henriksen teaches math to kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Willard Elementary in Casper. “I love to watch children learn and grow. I enjoy getting to know each child, figuring out how they learn best and building trusting relationships,” she notes. “The most important thing I do for kids comes very naturally to me. I make them feel important, feel how much I care about them and make them understand that each and every one of them can and will learn.”

Henriksen earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, and a master’s degree at Walden University in Minnesota. She continues her development through additional courses, including more than 100 hours in various areas of the education field. Henriksen has served on district-level curriculum committees, and she has chaired the School Improvement Council for more than a decade. Henriksen was part of a team that helped the district achieve high-growth schools and above-district PAWS (Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students) scores. She was nominated by a former student as the “teacher who made a big difference” in his life, for which Henriksen received a Medallion of Excellence. She is the 2008 Office Max Outstanding Teacher and further serves her community through church, community-betterment and extracurricular, education-related volunteer initiatives.

Each Teacher Achievement Award recipient 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.

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

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

U.S.-based Arch Coal, Inc. (NYSE:ACI) is one of the largest coal producers in the world, with more than 160 million tons of coal sold in 2010. Arch’s national network of mines supplies cleaner-burning, low-sulfur coal to customers on four continents, including U.S. and international power producers and steel manufacturers. Arch’s Wyoming operations – Thunder Basin Coal Company’s Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines and the Arch of Wyoming operations – have a combined workforce of more than 1,800.

Information about each of the 10 current recipients, as well as past recipients, is posted at