Education

Sage Valley Junior High School’s Gerrits Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Cheyenne, Wyo. (May 1, 2013) – Christina Gerrits’ pathway to teaching wasn’t a traditional one. “After we had our third son and I was able to retire from my supervisor’s job at the United States Postal Service, I started to teach as a substitute and homebound teacher to supplement our income,” she explained. “I found that after I overcame my fear of standing in front of a class, I really enjoyed developing relationships with the students and being able to help them learn.”  

From this experience, Gerrits was inspired to further her education. “As my oldest son took off for college, I started my teaching career,” Gerrits said. “Since then I have strived each year to become a better teacher, looking for new ways to hook the students’ interest. My goal is to have my students come into my classroom eager to see what I have up my sleeve.”  

As a result of her ability to find new ways to challenge her students, Gerrits received statewide recognition today. She was one of only 10 teachers to receive a 2013 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. John W. Eaves, Arch Coal president and chief executive officer, made the announcement during a presentation ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda. He was accompanied by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, First Lady Carol Mead and Wyoming Education Association Treasurer Jon VanOverbeke. This is the 13th year the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards have been presented in Wyoming.  

“Arch Coal is honored to recognize the winners of this year’s Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards in Wyoming,” Eaves said. “Great educators help build great states. Judging from the knowledge, skill and passion exhibited by this year’s recipients, we believe Wyoming has a bright future ahead.”  

Gerrits teaches seventh-grade science at Sage Valley Junior High School in Gillette. She has 13 years of teaching experience. “Every child can and should learn what they will need to be successful members of our community,” Gerrits said. “The challenge for the teacher is to meet the students where they are academically and then bring them up to where they need to be with activities and lessons. At the same time we must provide the students who already know the basics with thought-provoking activities that have meaning in their daily lives.”

“I am very proud and pleased to have my son enrolled in Mrs. Gerrits’ seventh-grade science class,” said Paul Waldum, visual art facilitator at Campbell County High School. “My son thoroughly enjoys learning in her class. She provides students with meaningful and pertinent information to help students develop lifelong learning skills. My wife and I are thrilled with the education our son is attaining.”  

Gerrits holds a bachelor of science degree from Texas A&M University in College Station, and a master of liberal studies degree from Regis University in Denver. Gerrits has attended a number of workshops on global climate change and has presented on the subject to the Wyoming Math and Science Teacher Conference. She was named the Outstanding Science Olympiad Coach as a result of her team’s first-place win at the state level. She founded and continues to be associated with the Prairie Wind Cultural Festival, which celebrates the community’s diversity. Gerrits has served as a foster parent and a host for foreign exchange students. She was a citizen representative to the community advisory board that developed a comprehensive parks plan, and created a nonprofit organization, Donkey Creek Pathways Taskforce, to promote off-road walking paths. These efforts earned her the distinction of “Ten Who Make a Difference in Gillette” by the Gillette News Record.  

Each Teacher Achievement Award recipient receives a distinctive trophy, a classroom plaque and a $3,500 personal cash award. Nominations for the award 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 teacher recognition awards are underwritten by the Arch Coal Foundation. 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 grants programs in West Virginia, Utah and Colorado, as well as a number of other education-related causes.  

Information about each of the award recipients is posted at archteacherawards.com.

St. Louis-based Arch Coal, Inc. (NYSE:ACI) is one of the world’s top coal producers for the global steel and power generation industries, serving customers in 25 countries on five continents. Its network of mining complexes is the most diversified in the United States, spanning every major coal basin in the nation. Arch Coal’s Wyoming operations – Thunder Basin Coal Company’s Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines and Arch of Wyoming – have a combined workforce of about 1,750. Arch Coal and the Arch Coal Foundation have a long history of supporting educational and community causes in Wyoming. For more information, visit archcoal.com.