Education

Huntington High School’s Leach Receives Arch Coal Achievement Award

Charleston, W. Va. (March 5, 2012) –Sheila B. Leach had the good fortune to experience many creative and dedicated educators in and out of the classroom. It’s what provided the initial spark for her to become a teacher and fueled that goal throughout the years.

“Whether a new initiative in my school district, ongoing professional development or a ‘thank you’ visit from a former student, there is always a reason to continue what I consider the most important effort for the success of individuals and society – classroom teaching,” says Leach. “Regardless of the current focus, the essential motivation is the welfare and growth of each student entrusted to me.”

Today Leach received public and prestigious validation of having remained mindful of that trust. 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 at 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.

“Sheila Leach believes all students can learn and that they learn through a variety of styles and at differing rates,” says Leer. “She also believes the role of a classroom teacher is to meet each student where he or she stands as a learner and to provide the learning environment and instructional methods necessary for that student’s individual development.”

With 28 years of experience, Leach teaches AP literature, composition and English courses at Huntington High School. “Students realize early on that I am invested in them as individuals as well as committed to their academic achievement,” says Leach. “Student and teacher are in the effort together – not only as part of a learning community, but as crafters of personal and academic growth. All students, regardless of their abilities, are met with the same high expectations in my classroom. My commitment to each student’s success lends itself to the philosophy of ‘accept no zeroes – failure is not an option.’ Students are secure in my commitment to their success, which enables them to continue working until their personal best is achieved.”

Leach earned a bachelor’s degree at Marshall University. She also achieved certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. As a member of the county’s high school restructuring initiative, Leach worked with community representatives, school administrators, parents and students to develop goals and an action plan for restructuring the school around the essentials of rigor, relevance and relationships. Serving as chair of her school’s literacy initiative, Leach researched and wrote a comprehensive plan emphasizing strategic instruction for vocabulary, comprehension and writing in the content areas. Leach worked with Tri-State Literacy to identify and provide tutoring for lowest Lexiled readers, also conducting interviews to determine interest and motivation. She participates in ongoing development through the W.Va. Center for Professional Development. In addition to attending week-long summer institutes and annual fall sessions, Leach took part in a Benedum Foundation Grant, as part of the AP Exam Success Prep Program. She is planning and leading five prep sessions for AP literature students. Within the community, Leach supports a range of organizations and programs aimed at improving quality of life for all.

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).