Education

Colter Elementary’s Varga Receives Arch Coal Achievement Award

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 13, 2012) – The initial motivation for Carrie Michelle Varga’s decision to teach was an older sister. Varga had observed her following a path in education and was inspired to become part of a profession that features lifelong learning.

“Now that I have been immersed within the field for 11 years, my students, their personal stories and their families motivate me to go to my classroom every day,” says Varga. “I view each of my students as having a unique learning potential, with individual background histories that need to be fostered by me and their families. The students provide inspiration to perform the job to the best of my abilities.”

As a result of giving her best, Varga received statewide recognition today. She was one of only 10 teachers statewide to receive a 2012 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal chairman and chief executive officer, made the announcement during a ceremony at South High School in Cheyenne. Leer was accompanied by Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Senator Mike Enzi, Representative Cynthia M. Lummis, and Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill. This is the 12th year the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards have been made in Wyoming.

“For those interested in the teaching profession, Carrie Varga has some words of advice,” says Leer. “Love learning, appreciate differences, be willing to collaborate, accept failure, be prepared to become emotionally attached to students and families, enjoy success and, most of all, dedicate yourself to your profession entirely.”

Varga teaches fifth-grade students at Colter Elementary School, Jackson. “I am an extremely strong proponent of the belief that every child can learn,” she says. “It is, however, my primary responsibility to ensure that this happens, given the fact that every student comes to school with a unique background that influences his or her learning needs.

“Through discussions with previous teachers, communications with families, conversations with students and formative and summative evaluations, I become educated about my students so that I understand how they learn best,” adds Varga. “Once I become familiar with each student, I then attempt to differentiate lessons according to learning styles and abilities. In my perspective, it isn’t about teaching the curriculum, it’s about teaching the students.”

Varga earned a bachelor’s degree at Idaho State, Pocatello, and a master’s degree at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. She also achieved English Language Learners endorsement through the University of Wyoming. Varga is a 2011 Arch Coal Golden Apple Award recipient and an active member of the Greater Yellowstone American History Project. She participated in the Center for Educational Leadership project through the University of Washington. As for the future, she is inspired to achieve National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification and a Ph.D in Gifted and Talented Education. Varga further supports her community through volunteer initiatives, including Old Bill’s Fun Run. Through participation in the Delta Kappa Gamma professional women’s group/philanthropic organization, she has donated books to the hospital and other countries, provided scholarships for young women and took part in highway cleanup. Varga has participated in the American Cancer Society’s Race for the Cure, and she encourages students to participate in community-betterment activities as well.

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.

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.

U.S.-based Arch Coal, Inc. (NYSE:ACI) is a top five global coal producer and marketer and the most diversified American coal company, with mining complexes across every major U.S. coal supply basin. In 2011, Arch continued to lead the U.S. coal industry in safety performance and environmental compliance among large, diversified producers. Arch’s Wyoming operations – Arch of Wyoming and Thunder Basin Coal Company’s Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines – have a combined workforce of more than 1,800.