Parkersburg High School’s Blaker Receives Arch Coal Achievement Award

Charleston, W. Va. (March 5, 2012) –As a child, Mary K. Blaker relocated with her family regularly. “The first 14 years of my life were spent in seven different cities,” she notes. “Through all of those moves, the one constant, stable factor I had was school.

“My teachers provided me with a caring and safe learning environment, and I wanted to be able to do the same for others,” Blaker adds. “I was born to teach; my kindergarten teacher even told my mother that if I did not grow up to be a teacher, she would be disappointed.”

Blaker has not disappointed, becoming not only a teacher, but also ranking among West Virginia’s best. Today she was among only 12 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 an awards ceremony at the Clay Center. He was accompanied by West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) President Dale Lee.

“Mary Blaker strives to provide all of her students with the knowledge and skills that will lead them to be productive and prosperous members of society,” says Leer. “By fostering a student-centered environment, Mary encourages her students to make decisions for themselves, developing a skill that is crucial in today’s society.”

Now seven years into her education career, Blaker teaches freshman English at Parkersburg High School. “I have a great responsibility to society; and that is to help build the future. My students and I must constantly be striving for a higher goal,” she says. “As a former band director once told me, ‘It’s never good enough.’ This inspires me to constantly strive higher in all that I do. As a teacher, I can push myself and my students to be the best that we can.”

“When Mary works with students, she leads by example,” notes Robin Stout, an instructional coach who has worked with Blaker for more than five years. “She engages and challenges her students to work to their potential by providing creative and differentiated lessons. Her students respect the work and attention she puts into her lessons and appreciate the individual attention she provides.”

Blaker earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at West Virginia University, and she holds National Board Certification as well. Blaker has facilitated school-based professional staff development since 2006, which led to her selection as a representative on the district Professional Staff Development Council by her peers. She was one of 14 teachers from her district selected to attend the inaugural Teacher Leadership Institute (TLI), which led to Blaker’s participation in two online conferences on classroom technology and to her collaboration on a unit that integrates 21st Century skills with a digital learner. After discussing the school’s many positive attributes with colleagues, Blaker wrote an application that resulted in Parkersburg High School being named a West Virginia School of Excellence. She serves as her school’s Key Club sponsor, whose members serve the community and school in numerous ways. As a member of Kiwanis, Blaker volunteers for various community-betterment events. She also participates in church-related activities and plays in a community band that annually performs several “mostly free” concerts.

In addition to recognition, Teacher Achievement 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.

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. In West Virginia, Arch Coal subsidiaries operate mining complexes at Beckley; Buckhannon (Imperial); Cowen (Eastern); Grafton (Tygart); Holden (Coal-Mac); Morgantown (Patriot); Philippi (Sentinel); and Sharples (Mountain Laurel).