PSHS teachers receive Arch Coal award

CHARLESTON – A pair of Parkersburg South High School teachers were recognized Thursday in Charleston. Jayne Whitlow and James Dennis were among the 12 teachers to receive a 2013 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award.

John W. Eaves, Arch Coal’s president and CEO, made the announcement Thursday during a ceremony at the Clay Center in Charleston. He was accompanied by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee.

Whitlow teaches theater and fine arts at Parkersburg South High School. She has 31 years of teaching experience.

Dennis teaches AP U.S. history, government and politics, and honors U.S. history to juniors and seniors at Parkersburg South High School. He has 35 years of teaching experience.

“Two of the most important things I bring to my students are empathy and compassion,” Dennis stated in a release. “They must know that I care about them as a person, not just a name on a roster. Each has to be treated as an individual; no one wants to be ‘mass produced.’ I have to allow for differences by having a variety of teaching methods and activities.”

“When I think back through all of my years of education, the first teacher that comes to my mind is Mr. Dennis, who taught my AP history class for two years,” said former student Kellsi Dye. “His classroom was always full of the life that overflowed from the joy teaching brought to his heart. Mr. Dennis made history into more than just learning about the past, but rather learning from the past. His lessons dug deep into the condition of humanity itself and challenged us to step up as the next generation.”

Whitlow said her earliest – and fondest – memories involve teaching.

“Following what I had seen in my father’s classroom, I assembled catalogs, pencils and papers to create my own,” she said. “I sang most of my lessons – an approach that my current students might find unusual – but nothing in my life has ever seemed more natural or self-fulfilling than teaching.

“For me, school has always been a place of comfort and support, a place of success,” she continued. “My goal is to give my students that same sense of comfort and support, and to make them successful both inside and outside the classroom. ‘Nothing succeeds like success,’ is so very true, and I am humbled that my teaching leads them to that success.”

Each Teacher Achievement Award recipient receives a trophy, a classroom plaque and a $3,500. The West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education, a foundation of the WVEA, makes $1,000 award to each recipient’s school for use with at-risk students. Nominations of the teachers are made by the public, and selection is made by a blue-ribbon panel of the teachers’ peers, all former recipients of the Arch Coal award.

This is the 25th year the awards have been presented in West Virginia, and it is the longest-running privately funded teacher recognition program in the state. The West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia Library Commission are long-standing supporters of the program.

“Arch Coal is honored to recognize all 12 West Virginia winners of this year’s Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards,” Eaves said. “Educators are the foundation of a strong, successful state and we’re proud to have supported a generation of great teachers with this long-standing award.”