Tomahawk Intermediate School’s Sponaugle Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Charleston, W. Va. (March 28, 2013) – As a child, Erin Sponaugle never imagined becoming a teacher. But her Aunt Dawn’s influence inspired her to do exactly that. “I was a shy, quiet child who struggled with panic attacks and a congenital heart defect,” she said. “I was a bookworm, an artist, and I loved younger children, but never thought I could possibly be a teacher. My journey into teaching began with my aunt, who taught first grade for 35 years. I adored her and relished the time I spent with her preparing her classroom in the fall, decorating her bulletin boards and helping with a year-end celebration.  

“The most important thing I do for my fifth graders is show them the relevance education has in their adolescent lives,” she continued. “Knowing that I have the ability to prepare my students, who are about to leave the golden years of childhood for the tempestuous pre-teen years, for the multitude of opportunities that await them if they make the right choices, motivates me to forgo the offers to be a school administrator and stay in the classroom.”  

As a result of her ability to prepare her students for the future, Sponaugle received statewide recognition today. She was one of only 12 teachers to receive a 2013 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. John W. Eaves, Arch Coal’s president and chief executive officer, made the announcement during a ceremony at the Clay Center in Charleston. He was accompanied by West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) President Dale Lee. This is the 25th year the awards have been presented in West Virginia, and it is the longest-running privately funded teacher recognition program in the state.  

“Arch Coal is honored to recognize all 12 West Virginia winners of this year’s Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards,” Eaves said. “Educators are the foundation of a strong, successful state, and we’re proud to have supported a generation of great teachers with this longstanding award.”  

Sponaugle teaches fifth-grade students at Tomahawk Intermediate School in Hedgesville. She has 10 years of teaching experience. “Teaching is about bringing out the best in every child,” she said. “As an educator, one has the treasured opportunity to show children how to use their strengths and weaknesses to better themselves and to feel success, often for the first time in their lives. Quality learning experiences can be the catalysts that can change a life forever. Teaching should engage students from the inside out, with critical thinking, song and dance, and authentic, hands-on experiences.”  

“Erin Sponaugle’s classroom is a technology-based, student-centered environment that is rich in engagement and ‘real world’ teaching,” said Heather McCain, a fellow teacher. “She holds her students to high standards and provides opportunities that help ensure they meet the expectations she holds of them.”  

Sponaugle earned a bachelor of arts degree as a McMurran Scholar in elementary education from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and a master of arts in educational leadership from West Virginia University. She also holds National Board Certification as a middle childhood generalist and has completed 45 post-graduate education hours. She plans to pursue her doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction or in organizational leadership, and to obtain certification as a technology integration specialist. Sponaugle serves as a candidate support provider for National Board Certification candidates and mentors new and student teachers. She was nominated for the West Virginia History Teacher of the Year and was named a finalist for the Berkeley County Teacher of the Year in 2011. She mentors at-risk students, and teaches Sunday School, Junior Church and Vacation Bible School at Otterbein United Methodist Church in Martinsburg. She also participates in numerous community activities such as collecting food for the Salvation Army and supplies for the Berkeley County Humane Society.  

Each Teacher Achievement Award recipient receives a distinctive trophy, a classroom plaque and a $3,500 personal cash award. 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. 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 West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia Library Commission are longstanding supporters of the program.  

The Arch Coal Foundation also supports teacher-recognition or grants programs in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, as well as a number of other education-related causes.  

Information about each of today’s 12 recipients, as well as past recipients, is posted at  

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. In West Virginia, Arch Coal subsidiaries employ about 1,800 people. Arch Coal and the Arch Coal Foundation have a long history of supporting educational and community causes in West Virginia. For more information, visit