Paintbrush Elementary School’s Allison L. Shirley Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

GILLETTE, Wyo., April 30, 2015 – “Identifying and meeting the academic needs of my students, encouraging critical thinking and inspiring them to dream and persevere are the most important tasks I accomplish for my students,” said Allison L. Shirley. “It is essential that I support and guide my youngest learners through this challenging new world of school. There is nothing an inspired student will not try when they know their teacher is one of their greatest supporters.

“I am constantly motivated to find creative ways to keep each student engaged and invested in their learning,” she continued. “My teaching philosophy has evolved over time, yet there has always been one constant: I believe in educating the whole child. As I believe in guiding students to do their best academically, I also am driven to help them develop their character, social skills and emotional health.”

As a result of Shirley’s ability to engage her students, she received statewide recognition today. She was one of only 10 teachers to receive a 2015 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. John W. Eaves, Arch Coal’s chairman and chief executive officer, made the announcement during a ceremony at Paintbrush Elementary School in Gillette. He was accompanied by Gov. Matt Mead and Wyoming Education Association Executive Director Ron Sniffin. This is the 15th 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 these 10 outstanding Wyoming classroom teachers for their long hours and great professionalism, which provide a high-quality education for the students of the state,” Eaves said. “They exemplify the spirit and dedication of teachers throughout Wyoming who continually adapt to new teaching methods, technologies and curriculum while striving to help their students achieve heights they never thought possible. We applaud them for their efforts and congratulate them on today’s achievement.”

Shirley teaches kindergarten at Paintbrush Elementary School in Gillette. She has 14 years of teaching experience. “I am acutely aware that kindergarten is generally the first experience my students have with school and fully understand that the nine months these children spend in my classroom have a profound impact on their view of school for the rest of their lives,” she said. “I teach with a passion that carries over to my students, allowing them to maintain a high level of intrinsic motivation. Kindergarten students become extremely excited about learning when they feel their teacher is excited too.”

“My daughter, Kadence, was a student in Mrs. Shirley’s class at Paintbrush Elementary School,” said Janell Uhler. “My daughter still speaks fondly of Mrs. Shirley and often references experiences she had in her classroom. Mrs. Shirley sees the best in each child. She truly understands that each child arrives to her from their ‘best place,’ and she lovingly guides and nurtures unbelievable growth and development in their first school year. I can see Mrs. Shirley’s impact and I feel grateful. Simply grateful.”

Shirley earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and special education and a Master of Science degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in reading instruction from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D. She has served on district assessment committees for language arts and math, and she serves on her school building’s Olweus Bullying Prevention committee. She is a member of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) cohort that is working with the University of Wyoming to develop an integrated science curriculum for kindergarten students. Shirley was a volunteer coach and director of coaching for the local soccer club, and has participated for a number of years in Relay for Life. She also organized a local “Crane for Kids” origami project, which resulted in 1,000 pieces of clothing being donated by Oshkosh B’gosh to children who were victims of the Japanese tsunami. 

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. The company controls more than 5 billion tons of high-quality metallurgical and thermal coal reserves, with access to all major railroads, inland waterways and a growing number of seaborne trade channels. 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