McKinley Elementary School’s Debbie Ebert DeWees Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Charleston, W. Va. (March 30, 2015) – “My first experience away from home was sitting in Mrs. Beckley’s first grade class,” said Debbie Ebert Dewees. “The room was filled with oak tables and tiny wooden chairs where we learned to write the ABCs and to discover the wonders of glitter and construction paper. I remember sitting in a circle reading about Dick and Jane. And, when we were not reading, that area came alive with the music of the ‘Farmer in the Dell.’ However, my life changed forever when we sang ‘The West Virginia Hills’ around Mrs. Beckley’s piano. I knew right then I wanted to be a Mrs. Beckley!

“Knowing there are many struggling readers out there motivates me to continue to teach,” she continued. “Because all learners have different strengths and interests, my instruction must attend to the students’ readiness, interests and learning profiles. The most important service that I do for my students is to provide them with the information they need to communicate ideas.”

As a result of DeWees’ ability to instill confidence in her students, she received statewide recognition today. She was one of only 12 teachers to receive a 2015 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 Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) President Dale Lee. This is the 27th year the awards have been presented in West Virginia. It is the longest-running, privately funded teacher recognition program in the state.

“Teachers have long been revered for the role they play in a well-educated society, and we are especially honored today to recognize 12 outstanding West Virginians who were presented with a 2015 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award,” Eaves said. “The role of the classroom teacher is constantly evolving, requiring educators to continually adapt to new teaching methods, technologies and curriculum. These educators are excellent representatives of the many teachers who strive daily in the classroom to help improve the lives of West Virginia’s children. We applaud them for their unwavering dedication.”

DeWees is a Title I basic skills teacher at McKinley Elementary School in Parkersburg. She has 14 years of teaching experience. “We all have our own personal style of teaching,” DeWees said, “but I believe that no matter what the style, the teacher’s attitude concerning the information affects the interest level, and that ultimately determines the learning levels of the students. Teachers are primarily motivated by a love of learning and a dedication to the development of future citizens. We have a unique opportunity to teach, model, and, most importantly, shape the confidence levels of students.”

“Some people become teachers through education and certification; truly gifted teachers are born to lead, guide and uplift those whom they serve,” said C. Jayne Whitlow, retired Parkersburg South High School teacher. “Debbie DeWees is one of these. Patience, kindness, joy, and passion for her students and their learning are the hallmarks of Debbie's teaching, whether in the classroom or in the community.”

DeWees earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education from West Virginia University-Parkersburg, a Master of Arts degree in reading specialization from Marshall University Graduate College in Charleston, and National Board Certification in early childhood-middle childhood literacy. She has attended the 21st Century Leadership Institute and is a member of the McKinley School Leadership Team and the Wood County Staff Development Council. DeWees was named the Wood County Reading Council Reading Teacher of the Year in 2007 and she was a 2014 Arch Coal Golden Apple recipient. She is a member of the National Society of Arts and Letters and Delta Kappa Gamma. DeWees volunteers at the Actors’ Guild of Parkersburg, serving as musical director for a number of productions, and she serves as a piano accompanist to several church and school groups. DeWees is co-founder of the Snuggle Bug Reading Club, which provides a blanket, flashlight and bag of books to McKinley’s first graders to foster a love of reading and to help provide a needed “getaway” during difficult times.

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

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