Education

North Elementary School’s Laura VanHorn Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Charleston, W. Va. (March 31, 2014) – As a college sophomore, Laura VanHorn chose teaching because she enjoyed working with young children. “I realized teaching was where my interests lie, and I could not see myself doing anything else,” she said. “Looking back, that may seem shallow, but as I think about it, I would say that, almost 30 years later, it is still one of the things that I most enjoy about my job.

“The delight, curiosity and enthusiasm that young children bring to my classroom is part of the daily joy in my job,” she continued. “It’s something that, even as I have been presented with other career opportunities within the field of education, keeps me driven to stay in the classroom.”

As a result of VanHorn’s joy of teaching, she received statewide recognition today. She was one of only 12 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 the Clay Center in Charleston. He was accompanied by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) President Dale Lee. This is the 26th year the awards have been presented in West Virginia. It is the longest-running, privately funded teacher recognition program in the state.

“We’re honored to recognize the 12 outstanding West Virginia teachers who were selected as this year’s recipients of the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards,” Eaves said. “If a solid education is the foundation upon which an individual builds a successful life, then excellent teachers are the mortar that holds the foundation together. These 12 individuals are great examples of the many committed teachers who strive daily to educate our children and make West Virginia a stronger state.”

VanHorn teaches kindergarten students at North Elementary School in Morgantown. She has 27 years of teaching experience. “One of the finest things about teaching is that each year I am given a clean slate to do what I do better,” she said. “I do not feel that I have yet ‘done my best’ and am anxious each August to begin a new year and be a better teacher. I have spent my career striving to improve. The most important thing I do for my students is to inspire this same thing in each of them. I motivate them to improve on what they can do, be critical thinkers and solve their own problems.”

“Mrs. VanHorn is the best teacher because she means business,” said Elise Lupo, a second-grade student at North Elementary. “What I mean by that is Mrs. VanHorn says ‘do your work first and then you can do that.’ She also loves her kids. I know she loves her kids because she works hard for them. She is a fair person. She gives everyone a chance to learn and to do something. A fun memory from kindergarten was playing with the worms. Mrs. VanHorn let us do an experiment on the worms. These reasons show why Mrs. VanHorn is an awesome teacher.”

VanHorn earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees from West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown. She also has National Board Certification and is an adjunct professor at WVU. VanHorn is involved with WVU’s Five-Year Teacher Education Program and serves as North Elementary’s student teacher supervisor. She helped launch the garden-based learning program at her school and serves as chairperson of the effort, which has an active year-round presence at the local farmer’s market. She is involved in her church where she serves as a Sunday School teacher and assists with youth group activities. VanHorn also is a member of a steel drum band, which performs locally, and she volunteers for the Winter Weather Posse, which helps winterize homes of senior citizens.

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 West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education, a foundation of WVEA, also presents a $1,000 cash award to each recipient’s school for use with at-risk students.

The Teacher Achievement Awards are underwritten by the Arch Coal Foundation and are supported in program promotion by the West Virginia Department of Education, the WVEA and the West Virginia Library Commission.

Arch Coal and the Arch Coal Foundation have a long history of supporting educational and community causes in West Virginia. The Arch Coal Foundation also supports teacher recognition or grants programs in Wyoming and Colorado, as well as a number of other education-related causes. Information about each of today’s 12 West Virginia recipients, as well as past recipients, is posted at archteacherawards.com.

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. In West Virginia, Arch Coal and its subsidiaries employ about 1,800 people. For more information, visit archcoal.com and responsible.archcoal.com.