University of Wyoming Lab School’s Jennifer Marie Mellizo Receives 2014 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Gillette, WY (May 7, 2014) – Ask teachers why they entered the field, and many will answer that they wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. Jennifer Marie Mellizo is one such teacher. “I had some fantastic teachers over the years that inspired within me the desire to learn, and I wanted to be able to do that for others,” she explained.  

“I chose music as my subject area because it is the one aspect of my life that has always made me feel truly alive,” continued Mellizo. “Within a musical performance there are moments of questioning, moments of creativity, moments of joy, and moments that we do not quite know how to describe. These moments feed the soul and are all part of an aesthetic experience that I believe all children deserve as part of their educations.”  

As a result of Mellizo’s ability to make a difference for her students, she received statewide recognition today. She was one of only 10 teachers to receive a 2014 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. John W. Eaves, Arch Coal president and chief executive officer, made the announcement during a ceremony at Campbell County High School in Gillette. He was accompanied by Gov. Matt Mead, First Lady Carol Mead and Wyoming Education Association President Kathy Vetter. This is the 14th year the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards have been presented in Wyoming. It is the longest-running, privately funded teacher recognition program in the state.  

“We’re honored to recognize the 10 outstanding Wyoming teachers who were named as this year’s recipients of the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards,” Eaves said. “Collectively, these 10 individuals represent all of the teachers statewide who are committed to making Wyoming thrive through educational excellence. Individually, they have a thirst for knowledge and a passion for teaching children, and they work tirelessly each day to help their students succeed. For this, we applaud them.”  

Mellizo teaches general music, band and choir to kindergarten through ninth-grade students at the University of Wyoming Lab School in Laramie. She has 13 years of teaching experience. “My personal teaching philosophy emphasizes the idea that education in the arts helps to develop the whole child, allowing them opportunities to develop the capacity to problem solve and think for themselves,” she said. “My philosophy is not necessarily to produce world-class musicians, but rather to help children learn to enjoy music so it will become an important part of their lives beyond school.”  

“In a school full of outstanding teachers, Jennifer Mellizo stands out,” said Jamie Gilley, second- and third-grade teacher at the lab school. “Jennifer is thoroughly loved and respected by her coworkers, but most importantly by her students. They listen, learn and challenge their own abilities because they want to please her. In return, Jennifer respects and adores all of her students. They feel loved and safe and are eager to learn.”  

Mellizo holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education, and is a Ph.D. candidate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wyoming in Laramie. She is trained in the “Dalcroze Approach,” which focuses on the physical aspect of teaching music, and has attended professional development courses in integrating technology into the music classroom. Mellizo also is obtaining her Kindermusik license to teach infant, toddler and pre-school music classes. She recently travelled to Benin to record traditional music and is writing a children’s musical based on the country’s music and folklore. Mellizo has organized the American Choral Directors Association’s Wyoming All-State Children’s Choir, served as director for the Laramie City Children’s Choir for three years and has been a student teacher mentor for 10 years. Her performing ensembles have entertained the community on numerous occasions. Mellizo’s middle school advisory group has participated in a number of Random Acts of Kindness initiatives including Toys for Tots and Locks of Love. Her students also have donated iPods loaded with music to underprivileged children in an African village, and they are planning a fundraiser for the International Center for Art and Music at Ouidah, Benin, Africa.

Teachers are nominated by the public, and a blue-ribbon panel of past awards recipients selects the annual winners. Each Teacher Achievement Awards recipient is presented with a distinctive trophy, a classroom plaque and a $3,500 personal cash award.  

The Teacher Achievement Awards are underwritten by the Arch Coal Foundation and are supported in program promotion by the Wyoming Department of Education, the Wyoming Education Association, the Wyoming library community, Taco John’s and Loaf ‘N Jug stores.  

Arch Coal and the Arch Coal Foundation have a long history of supporting educational and community causes in Wyoming. The Arch Coal Foundation also supports teacher recognition or grants programs in West Virginia and Colorado, as well as a number of other education-related causes. Information about each of today’s 10 Wyoming 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 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 Thunder Basin Coal Company, which employs nearly 1,800 people in Wyoming, operates the Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines. For more information, visit and