Casper Classical Academy’s O’Briant Receives Arch Achievement Award

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 13, 2011) – “When people hear I teach middle school, they often question my sanity; however, it is truly my niche,” says Jackie Ann O’Briant, a seven-year teaching veteran. “I have the pleasure of looking forward to going to work each day to be surrounded by my quirky, emotional, sarcastic, fun-loving students – how many people can say they are excited to go to work and mean it?

“There is no monotony with teenagers, as every day and every year are brand new,” she adds. “My profession is not one for those wishing to stagnate in boundless repetition; it’s all about change and adaptation and flexibility. Needless to say, I feel completely challenged and stimulated, and that has a great deal to do with the satisfaction I feel with my calling.”

Today O’Briant experienced another type of calling; you might say it was to the head of the class. 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.

“To those thinking about entering the education profession, Jackie Ann would say it’s not a career choice to make lightly,” says Leer. “Because teaching is so important, she believes it should be chosen because it is a passion. Students deserve to have mentors that truly love what they do.”

A Casper resident, O’Briant teaches language arts at the Casper Classical Academy. “One thing that makes my classroom unique is a focus on classic literature,” says O’Briant. “I believe that students of all levels can understand and appreciate great books and great authors – literature that will help them connect across generations.

“I have many ultimate purposes and goals when I think about my time with my students,” she notes. “My role in the classroom is to lead them to achieve all the skills they’ll need for future success,” O’Briant adds. “Another goal that I have for all my students is to make them all readers for life. My mission is to connect every student with ‘the’ book that gets them hooked on reading forever, and I believe I can do it.”

O’Briant earned two bachelor’s degrees at the University of Wyoming and a master’s degree through Grand Canyon University. Attendance at national conferences helps her stay current with trends and new bodies of knowledge pertinent to the students and curriculum. She is an active member of English Companion Ning, an online professional learning community for English/language arts teachers. O’Briant also is a member of the National Council for Teachers of English and Delta Kappa Gamma. Within the community, she supports the United Way, Salvation Army and Relay for Life, as well as church, Delta Kappa Gamma and other community-betterment and education-related 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