Education

Richfield High School’s Nielson Receives Arch Coal Achievement Award

RICHFIELD, Utah (May 2, 2012) – In early elementary school, Michelle Nielson wrote a short story about tricking a leprechaun into giving her all his gold. “At the time, my father was teaching English 101 night classes at Snow College. As part of his instruction on writing narrative essays, I was asked to be a ‘guest presenter’ and read my story to his class of college freshmen,” she recalls.

“I will never forget how proud I felt knowing that something I had created was able to help others learn and become better,” Nielson adds. “It was through this experience I knew I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps, become a teacher and continue helping others reach their potential and find a love for learning.”               Today Nielson received further validation of her own potential. She was among only five Utah teachers to receive a 2012 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Arch Coal Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Lang made the announcement at Red Hills Middle School in Richfield. He was accompanied by Utah Education Association Executive Director Mark Mickelsen. This is the sixth year the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards have been made in Utah.

“The greatest gift Michelle Nielson gives her students is not the skills required to do math or write essays,” says Lang. “It is helping them find the ability to believe in themselves and sparking the desire to do their best.”

With almost 14 years of experience, Nielson teaches special education and co-teaches regular education courses at Richfield High School. “I work my hardest to find ways to relate all skills I teach to the lifestyles and familiar things of my students. They have more desire to learn if they can see the use of the skill,” she notes.

“I try to ‘think like a teenager’ as I am planning my lessons,” Nielson adds. “If I present in ways that are too mature for their thinking or with vocabulary they don’t regularly hear and use, the students are turned off from the beginning. I work hard to talk with my students rather than to my students.”

Nielson earned an associate degree at Snow College and bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as reading and math endorsements, at Southern Utah University. She also has completed 30 credits beyond her master’s degree. Nielson regularly attends the Utah Special Education Law Conference and State Behavior and Transition Roundtable meetings. She is a member of the Sevier School District’s Behavior and Transition teams and often has presented at the district and school levels. As a graduate of the mentor academy, she mentors new teachers or those facing challenges. Nielson teaches colleagues how to make presentations, materials and tests fit the needs and abilities of all students. She served as the cheer coach for 10 years and now serves as student council adviser, Sterling Scholar adviser and junior prom adviser. Nielson also regularly holds evening tutoring sessions to give students additional academic assistance. She helped students host a “Camouflage Christmas” for children of the local National Guard unit on active duty; a “Penny War,” which raised more than $900 to help give some students a brighter Christmas; and a shoe-and-coat drive for recipients in Third World countries. Nielson further supports her community through church and other betterment activities and events.

The Arch Coal Foundation’s teacher recognition program is available to classroom teachers in Carbon, Emery, Sanpete and Sevier counties. The counties surround the Skyline, Dugout Canyon and Sufco mines operated by Canyon Fuel Company, a subsidiary of major U.S. coal producer Arch Coal, Inc. Each recipient receives a distinctive trophy, a classroom plaque and a $3,500 personal, cash award.

Partners for the program include the Office of the Governor, Utah State Office of Education, Utah Education Association, Utah School Superintendents Association, Carbon County School District, Emery County School District, Sevier County School District, North Sanpete School District, South Sanpete School District, Far West Bank, Market Express, radio stations KMTI, KLGL, KMGR, KSVC, KCYQ, KOAL, KARB, KRPX, and both TacoTime and Bookcliff Sales in Price.

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 more than 20 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 Canyon Fuel Company is Utah’s largest coal producer and a large, state employer, with a workforce of more than 750.