Rawlins High School’s Urasky Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Cheyenne, Wyo. (May 1, 2013) – Teaching wasn’t Lesley Urasky’s first career, but it became the one she stuck with because of her students. “I married a teacher and followed him to south Texas, where I couldn’t find a job in my field,” said Urasky, who was a geologist at the time. “I began working as a library aide for the school where my husband taught. Through my interaction with students in the library, I developed a keen interest in forming meaningful relationships with these students. I saw the classroom as a means to do this. I also saw a way to impart how ‘real-world’ science is conducted.

“I have continued teaching because I enjoy seeing my students develop the ability to form educated opinions that allow them to be socially responsible citizens,” she continued. “I feel that the most important skill I teach my students is to thoroughly examine all possibilities and think critically about the world around them. When it comes right down to it, the topic being taught is not as important as learning to articulate carefully formed ideas.”

As a result of her ability to teach her students to think critically, Urasky 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.”

Urasky teaches science at Rawlins High School. She has 15 years of teaching experience. “The primary challenge facing classroom teachers today is relevancy,” she said. “Students need to see how the information presented pertains to their lives today. I strive to move away from the pure dissemination of facts to modern applications of the subject. As my students leave high school to become members of tomorrow’s global economy, I will have done my utmost to provide them with critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Science is a wonderful means of providing students an opportunity to practice these skills prior to setting out on their own.”

“Lesley is not just a teacher from eight in the morning until the school bell signals the end of class,” said. Elizabeth A. M. Hiatt, a former student. “She is passionate about the work that she does and is involved in many extra-curricular activities. Over the past several years I have followed her adventures as she participated in educator programs in Antarctica, at a dinosaur dig in Montana and as a Teacher at Sea. She brought those experiences back to Wyoming and shared them with students from elementary to high school.”

Urasky earned bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in geology from the University of Wyoming in Laramie. She is a member of the Wyoming State Science Standards Review committee and was an Advanced Placement environmental science exam reader. She has participated in a number of professional development opportunities, including two research experiences: an excavation of hadrosaurs at a site in northwest Montana sponsored by Montana State University and as a Teacher at Sea for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She also was a Polar TREC teacher for seven weeks in Antarctica, which resulted in her first professional journal for the National Association of Geoscience Teachers journal, In the Trenches. She has assisted both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in obtaining badges in earth and space sciences, and has participated in Eagle Scout projects such a building trails at a National Wildlife Refuge and creating quilts for children at a local homeless shelter.

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

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