Parkersburg South’s Melissa Bannister Receives Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Charleston (March 6, 2003) – If you were to drop in on Melissa Bannister’s classroom, you might find some talking and even laughing going on. “My students work on a variety of projects in a variety of ways,” she explains. “Long ago I gave up the idea that students were robots that learned in a methodical, mechanical way. Having had experience with all student levels, from honors to special education, I have come to realize that I will try just about anything to engage my classes in creative, critical thinking and learning.”

Evidently, her methods work – including the laughter. Bannister is one of only 10 West Virginia teachers to receive a 2003 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal president and chief executive officer, made the announcement, accompanied by West Virginia Governor Bob Wise; Secretary of Education and Arts Kay Goodwin; Deputy State Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Paine, and WVEA President Tom Lange, at a presentation ceremony at the state capitol.

“This year’s ‘class’ of recipients is proof that West Virginia is blessed with many excellent teachers,” says Leer. “We truly believe excellent teachers are the cornerstone of our society and economic vitality. These recipients have experience, expertise and a passion for learning, and they pass it on to their students every day.”

Bannister teaches sophomore- and junior-level English courses at Parkersburg South High School. On an average day, her students might be staging a murder trial for a Shakespearean character named Iago; creating poetry books; or writing letters to a local newspaper editor.

“By allowing my students to experiment with a variety of techniques, I am giving them a chance to work together, to succeed and, yes, to fail occasionally, so they will be able to understand that the process of learning is just as important as the finished product,” she explains. “I want them to leave my classroom armed with hope, a sense of honor in their accomplishments, a hearty dose of humor and a hunger to continue trying their best – knowing always that the best way to learn is to realize their strengths and weaknesses.”

Bannister earned a bachelor’s degree at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon; and a master’s degree at Ohio’s Marietta College. She continues her education in a variety of ways, including involvement in West Virginia Writing Assessment, West Virginia Department of Education; Governor’s Summer Institute; and other education-related initiatives. She further supports her community through participation in a wide range of community, civic, church and school-related activities.

In addition to recognition, recipients receive a $2,500 unrestricted cash prize, a distinctive glass trophy and a framed certificate. The West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education is making a $1,000 award to each recipient’s school for use with at-risk students. The Arch Coal teacher recognition program features public nomination and peer selection.

Arch Coal is supported by the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Education Association and Speedway in program promotion. Arch Coal’s Teacher Achievement Awards is one of the longest running, privately sponsored teacher recognition programs in the state.

Arch Coal is the nation’s second largest coal producer and a supplier of clean-burning, low-sulfur coal exclusively. Approximately 2,000 people are employed at Arch’s operations in West Virginia. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis.