Cody High School’s Riley Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Cheyenne, Wyo. (May 1, 2013) – Michael Riley says he always wanted to be a teacher – even before he could read – but it took him a while to get there. “I remember sitting with a half-burned book I had pulled from the ashes of a trash barrel and pretending to read it,” he said. “But it took years of seriously pursuing other vocations – the railroad, theology, pre-medicine, bridge building, electrician and pre-law – before teaching hooked me.

“I was all set to attend law school when Dr. Richard Adler asked me to help teach a writing class in Montana State Prison,” he continued. “I found myself consumed by the prisoners and their writing. I could see how therapeutic it was for them, and I felt a unique satisfaction in the work, so I signed a one-year contract in Cody to teach ninth-grade English. I thought I would save some money and go back to law school, but when I told the Dean of the Law School that, he said, ‘If you go to Cody to teach, you’ll never come back to law school.’ To this day, I do not know how he saw that, but he was right.”

As a result of his dedication to teaching, Riley received statewide recognition today. He 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.”

Riley teaches English and journalism at Cody High School. He has 32 years of teaching experience. “I see learning as a continuum,” he said. “The best thing I can do as a teacher is help my students realize they must try to guide their learning as they grow, whether with books, self-experience or other people to enrich and fulfill their lives. Once I know where students are, as their guide, I concentrate on bringing them to the next level, and then push them to the next level, and on it goes.”

“Mr. Riley always pushed me and never doubted me,” said Erika S. Quick, a former student. “He embraced my enthusiasm, my energy and my voice. The two years I had with him were instrumental in my personal and professional growth. He was one, if not the only, teacher who believed that I was going to be something someday. He made me truly believe in myself. I went on to graduate from college, and for two years was program director for a hunting show on the NBC Sports Network. Now I am pursuing my teaching degree in the hope that someday I can be half the teacher he is.”

Riley holds a bachelor of arts degree and a master of fine arts degree in fiction writing, both from the University of Montana in Missoula. He is a former writer-in-residence for the Montana Arts Council. He is active in state and national journalism organizations and started a television program at Cody High School. He has been recognized as Teacher of the Year, Adviser of the Year and as a Hall of Fame inductee. He volunteers in a number of community service organizations such as the Elks, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Cody Youth Center and the American Youth Soccer League. Riley and his students started and maintain a public access television channel at a local cable company that serves the Cody community with important announcements and information.

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