Buckhannon Academy Elementary School’s Hicks Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Charleston, W. Va. (March 28, 2013) – Virginia Hicks’ love of learning led her to teaching, the only profession she ever considered. “School has always felt like a second home to me,” she said. “An atmosphere where people exchange ideas, discuss current events, share thoughts and assist each other in a quest for knowledge seemed like a wonderful place to spend my life. Plus I have a passion for creating art and wanted to pass it on. There was never any other choice for me, even as a young child.  

“For all of these reasons I continue to teach,” Hicks continued. “I am motivated by the smiling, quizzical, eager expressions that greet me each day and by the knowledge that participation in the arts expands and enhances creative, higher-level thinking in all other subject areas, thus enabling all students to be successful. Every day I feel a sense of pride and achievement by knowing that I am opening doors and expanding horizons for each of my students.”  

As a result of her passion for teaching, Hicks 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.”  

Hicks teaches art to kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School in Buckhannon. She has 14 years of teaching experience. “I hope that I create an atmosphere where every one of my students, at all academic levels and from all socio-economic backgrounds, can reach their full potential academically, emotionally and socially,” Hicks said. “I aim to create an environment where each child feels comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas and thinking on a higher level.”  

“Virginia Hicks is one of the hardest working teachers in our building,” said Music Teacher Jeremiah Smallridge. “She spends much of her time decorating the halls of our school with beautiful student artwork, creating a colorful and inviting environment. She selflessly gives more of her time entering student work into competitions and art shows. Mrs. Hicks is an encouraging teacher who likes to boost her students’ self-esteem by sharing their work with others.”  

Hicks earned a bachelor of arts, with honors, in textile design from Loughborough College of Art and Design in Leicestershire, England, and a post-graduate certification in art education from Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, England. She attends continuing education courses in technology and the visual arts to expand her knowledge and expertise. She is a member of the Buckhannon arts community and routinely submits her artwork, along with students’ pieces, to exhibits for public display. Hicks is a 10-year member of the West Virginia Art Educator’s Association (WVAEA), and was named the WVAEA Elementary Art Educator of the Year in 2012. She recently was named Upshur County Teacher of the Year for 2013. She is a board member for the Upshur County Youth Soccer League, a Girl Scout leader and annually participates in Relay for Life.  

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