Education

Spring Mills High School’s Jessica Salfia Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Charleston, W. Va. (March 30, 2015) – The struggles of a sixth-grade friend led Jessica Salfia to a life changing decision. “I sat next to a boy named Dave in reading circle who couldn't read,” she said. “An avid reader myself, I found myself near tears every day during reading class watching him agonize over words that I had already zipped past with ease.

“I worried about Dave missing out on all the wonderful adventures that could be found in books, and I hated the pain reading caused him,” she continued. “As I watched him struggling one day, his apparent frustration and embarrassment written on his face as plainly as the words on my page, I scooted my desk over to his, and started helping him sound out the words. Instead of being ashamed that I was helping him, he was relieved, and that day both a partnership and a passion for teaching were born.”

As a result of Salfia’s passion to help others, 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.”

Salfia teaches English to 11th-grade students at Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg. She has 12 years of teaching experience. “Treating all my students with empathy and understanding, and taking the needs of the individual into consideration are the pillars of my teaching style and teacher philosophy,” she said. “Making sure that students have work that not only engages and interests them, but also challenges them is an essential ingredient to a successful classroom, even if that means that a handful of kids are doing the complete opposite of what the rest of the class is doing.”

“If a good teacher motivates you to succeed, then a great teacher inspires you to take risks,” said Michelle Hogmire, a former student and graduate student at Columbia University. “If a good teacher urges you to think critically in the classroom, then a great teacher compels you to think critically about life. If a good teacher helps you find information, then a great teacher helps you find yourself. By these definitions, Jessica Salfia is by far the best teacher I've ever had.”

Salfia earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education/English from Alderson Broaddus College in Philippi, and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown. Salfia’s master thesis on the correlation between student achievement on the West Virginia WESTEST and teacher and student attitude won the 2012 Shepherd University Graduate Student in Scholarship Award. She also is a member of the Alderson Broaddus University Alumni Council. Salfia is a member of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and is working with a colleague to create a West Virginia chapter of NCTE. She also is a member of the Berkeley County Schools Secondary/English Curriculum Writing Team and Book Selection Committee. Salfia sponsors the school’s Rotary-Interact club, which has participated in a number of volunteer activities, including the Martinsburg Rotary Club’s Breakfast with Santa and Pancakes for Polio events, as well as the CASA River Century Bike Ride and a holiday canned food drive for the local Berkeley County food bank.

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. 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 archcoal.com.