Parkersburg South High School’s Dennis Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Charleston, W. Va. (March 28, 2013) – Even at a young age, James L. Dennis admired and respected his teachers. “It was their caring, compassionate and sharing attitudes,” he said. “They gave of themselves so that one day I would be successful and happy, no matter where life led me. They opened my eyes and broadened my mind with the knowledge they imparted to me. I realized that someday I wanted to join this community of educators and give this same gift to future generations of students and instill in them what my teachers had instilled in me.  

“Two of the most important things I bring to my students are empathy and compassion,” he continued. “They must know that I care about them as a person, not just a name on a roster. Each has to be treated as an individual; no one wants to be ‘mass produced.’ I have to allow for differences by having a variety of teaching methods and activities.”  

As a result of his efforts to help his students succeed, Dennis received statewide recognition today. He 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.”  

Dennis teaches advanced placement U.S. history, government and politics, and honors U.S. history to juniors and seniors at Parkersburg South High School. He has 35 years of teaching experience. “The most important challenge we face as educators is the realization that we are dealing with human beings,” said Dennis. “We must continue to strive to keep a personal attachment with our students. No matter how much technology we make available, no matter how many teaching styles we attempt, no matter how much collaboration we use, if we ever lose sight of the individual young person we are trying to educate, we can never be effective teachers.”  

“When I think back through all of my years of education, the first teacher that comes to my mind is Mr. Dennis, who taught my AP history class for two years,” said Former Student Kellsi Dye. “His classroom was always full of the life that overflowed from the joy teaching brought to his heart. Mr. Dennis made history into more than just learning about the past, but rather learning from the past. His lessons dug deep into the condition of humanity itself and challenged us to step up as the next generation.”  

Dennis earned a bachelor of arts degree from Marietta College in Ohio, and a master of arts degree from Salem College, Salem, W.Va. He has been named Senior Class Favorite Teacher numerous times by his students, an honor he deems to be his greatest professional achievement. He has been profiled in American Spirit magazine, and was named West Virginia Outstanding Teacher of American History for 2008 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. He has been included in the Who’s Who Among American Teachers and has received the G.E. Star Award. He is the author of Washington’s Darker Brother, a book covering black history in Washington County, Ohio. Dennis serves on the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee at his church, and he is a member of the National Council for Social Studies and West Virginia Professional Educators. He chairs the Social Studies Department at his school, is the Foreign Exchange Student Coordinator and the Academic Team leader, and he serves on the Academic Advisory Council and a number of curriculum and scholarship committees.  

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