Education

Cody High School’s Kelly Phelan
Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Cody, Wyo., May 10, 2016 – Some children know at an early age what they want to do when they grow up. Kelly Phelan decided on her life’s direction at the age of five. “My passion started in my grandmother's house, completing puzzles on her chalkboard by the phone,” she said. “Then it progressed to using carbon paper, so I could write copies of quizzes for my friends who would come over to play. All humans want to be part of a bigger picture. For me, teaching was never a question; it was always the answer.

“As a high school mathematics teacher, I love how really hard problems can have a simple solution or simple-seeming problems can be extremely complex,” she continued. “But as much as I love math, I truly enjoy working with the students. For me, teaching is less about math and more about developing students who will turn into great adults.”

As a result of Phelan’s ability to help her students find answers, she received statewide recognition today at a student assembly held at Cody High School. She becomes one of only 10 Wyoming teachers to receive a 2016 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. This is the 16th year the awards have been presented in Wyoming. It is the longest-running, privately funded teacher recognition program in the state.

“We are honored to present Kelly Phelan with an Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award in recognition of her dedication to the teaching profession and to ensuring the success of her students,” said John W. Eaves, chairman and chief executive officer. “She is among the many outstanding Wyoming classroom teachers who strive diligently each day to provide their students with a high-quality education. We congratulate them all for their professionalism and commitment to enriching the lives of their students and ensuring a bright future for the state.”

Phelan teaches mathematics to ninth- through 12th-grade students at Cody High School. She has nine years of teaching experience. “Learning is like running,” she said. “I want students to see that this is a lifetime sport, and they can go at their own pace. Yes, there will always be someone who finishes ahead of them, someone who knows more, but the point is that they made the journey. The students might get nervous or anxious if tackling a big race, but by setting smaller goals, they'll learn things they never thought possible. As they walk across the stage at graduation, my goal is to get them excited to sign up for another race.”

“I will be the first to admit I was not the best student my sophomore year,” said Oenallie Moore, a former student of Phelan’s. “I had (have) a very difficult time focusing because of my attention deficit disorder, and I’m positive it must have been an absolute hassle to try and teach me. Despite this, Mrs. Phelan would make time for me after class every day for most of the year, even if it was for only fifteen minutes. It was in those fifteen minutes when she could have been preparing to teach her gymnastics class or relaxing after a full day of work that she would tutor me one-on-one and I would learn the material I was unable to learn in class. She works with students as individuals making adjustments to her teaching method to focus on their needs.”

Phelan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Wyoming in Laramie. She also has received National Board Certification. She serves as a reader, assisting other National Board candidates to hone their applications. In addition to serving on a variety of school district committees, Phelan volunteers at the local animal shelter.

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

The Teacher Achievement Awards are underwritten by the Arch Coal Foundation and are supported in program promotion by the Office of the Governor, the Wyoming Department of Education, the Wyoming Library Community, the Wyoming Education Association (WEA), Taco John’s and Loaf ‘N Jug.

“Teachers play a vital role in shaping the future,” said Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Their impact reaches not only their students and their school, but also their community and our state. I’m so proud to have a multitude of excellent educators in Wyoming and grateful that Arch Coal has supported teachers through this award for generations. Arch Coal is a wonderful partner in education and in recognizing, even in difficult times, the significant and valuable contribution made by these teachers.”

“The governor and legislators have made education a priority in Wyoming through investing in a great system and our Wyoming students; those dollars are paying off. Significant funding for K-12 comes directly from the mining industry and I would like to thank them for all they do to educate students in our state, as our students are truly our future. Recent reports show that Wyoming students lead the West, and the WEA is confident that support for a strong education in Wyoming will continue in the future,” said WEA President Kathy Vetter.

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. Information about Wyoming recipients, as well as past recipients, is posted at archteacherawards.com.

U.S.-based Arch Coal, Inc. is a top coal producer for the global steel and power generation industries, reliably serving customers worldwide. Its network of large-scale, low-cost 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 operates the Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines in Wyoming. For more information, visit archcoal.com.