Park Middle School’s McNeal Receives Arch Coal Achievement Award

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (March 8, 2011) – Drema McNeal knows how it feels to have someone care enough about you to help you reach your full potential. “The elementary school I attended did ability groups,” recalls McNeal. “I was in the average group for the first three years, but by the end of the fourth year I struggled more and more and fell further and further behind. The beginning of fifth grade, I was placed in the low-achieving group,” she adds.

“Had it not been for my teacher, Mr. Carlin, I would have been labeled an unintelligent child. Mr. Carlin took time to get to know me as a person. He assessed what I knew and did not know, and he developed a plan that worked for me. Soon he had me reading on grade level. My attitude about school and life changed, and my grades improved. By the end of the year, I was making A’s and B’s. I continued to be on the honor roll and dean’s list for the rest of my academic life. Mr. Carlin definitely had an impact on my young adolescent life. My goal is to do the same for my students.”

After more than two decades as a teacher, McNeal continues to excel. Today she was among only 12 West Virginia teachers 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 the Clay Center in Charleston. He was accompanied by West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) Executive Director David Haney.

“Drema McNeal views teaching as a means for continual learning and professional growth,” says Leer. “Her primary goal as an educator is to instill a love of learning in her students. She believes all students deserve an education that prepares them for higher education, future careers and leadership roles in the community.”

McNeal teaches sixth-grade language arts at Park Middle School, Beckley. “My greatest contribution to education is my passion and compassion for working with children to become better readers and writers and to help students that struggle to read and write on grade level,” she notes. “It is my desire to make a difference in the lives of every student that walks in my classroom.

“I know there are children sitting in my class that do not have the educational support they need at home to help them with homework or push them to reach higher goals,” McNeal, who resides in Beckley, adds. “The most important thing I can do for my students is to be that teacher who offers students the encouragement and skills necessary to reach their full potential. If they know someone cares and is willing to help them along their journey, they will work hard and accomplish more.”

McNeal earned her bachelor’s degree from Concord University, Athens, W.Va.; and a master’s degree from West Virginia University. She has achieved an additional 60 graduate hours in various courses as well as National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification. She holds endorsements/certifications in reading, special education, language arts and communication. She is the 2010 Raleigh County Teacher of the Year and the 2011 West Virginia Teacher of the Year. McNeal has presented at county and state workshops and conferences and has served on her school’s curriculum team for 20 years. She plans to pursue a doctorate in education and further supports her community through involvement in church, civic and extracurricular education-related initiatives.

In addition to recognition, awardees 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 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 supports teacher-recognition or grant programs in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, as well as a number of other education-related causes.

Arch Coal, Inc. is one of the world’s largest and most efficient coal producers, with more than 160 million tons sold in 2010. Arch supplies cleaner-burning, low-sulfur coal to customers on four continents through its national network of mines. In West Virginia, Arch subsidiaries operate the Mountain Laurel and Coal-Mac complexes. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Mo.