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Berkeley County takes four of 12 teaching awards

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Nearly half of the 12 educators selected for this year’s Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award are from the Eastern Panhandle – including four from Berkeley County and one from Jefferson.

Honorees were featured at a ceremony hosted by the Arch Coal Foundation in Charleston on Monday at the Clay Center. This is the state’s longest-running privately sponsored teacher recognition program and is now in its 27th year, according to a press release announcing the 2015 winners.

Berkeley County recipients include Cindy Evarts (29 years experience, teaches math and language arts at Orchard View Intermediate School), Rhonda Foreman (15 years experience, teaches English at Martinsburg High School), Demi Lewin (31 years experience, teaches library science at Rosemont Elementary School) and Jessica Salfia (12 years experience, teaches English at Spring Mills High School).

Superintendent of Schools Manny Arvon said this news is especially exciting since Berkeley County fared so well in the statewide recognition program.

“Berkeley County Schools is so proud and excited for the recipients of the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Their love of teaching and passion for leadership in their classrooms and schools is applauded. They are wonderful examples of the many quality educators working with our students on a daily basis,” Arvon said in an email.

The most recent winners bring the county’s total to 14 honorees, and it is also the first time for four winners at one time. Previously there have been two in a year, Arvon said.

Carolyn Thomas, who teaches science at Wildwood Middle School in Shenandoah Junction and has seven years of experience, was the sole recipient from Jefferson County.

Jefferson County Board of Education President Scott Sudduth said Thomas is “one of the best teachers I’ve ever seen, especially the way she engages students.”

Sudduth said he has worked with her as a parent as well as a board member.

“Carolyn is a real gem. She practices hands-on learning like she could have written the book on it,” he said in a telephone interview.

Arch Coal President and CEO John W. Eaves, who took part in the award ceremony, said teaching is “not a career for the faint of heart” and that his company was proud to recognize “these outstanding teachers for their excellence in the classroom.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who helped congratulate the teachers, knows from first-hand experience what educators face.

“As a former teacher, a father and husband of a college president, I understand the importance of a good education. And as governor, I recognize providing a world-class education is essential to West Virginia’s continued growth and economic success,” Tomblin said in a press release.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee, who also helped honor this year’s recipients, said teachers are “rarely honored for the hard work and long hours they put into providing a high-quality education for the students of our state.”

After receiving nominations from the public, a panel of past award recipients selects the top 12. Each winner receives a $3,500 unrestricted cash award, trophy and classroom plaque.

Additionally, the West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education (a foundation of WVEA and funded by association members), also makes a $1,000 cash award to each teacher’s school for use with at-risk students. It was created in 1993 and to date has awarded nearly $250,000 to schools to assist in the education of at-risk students, the press release states.

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.

Information about each of this year’s recipients – as well as past honorees – is posted at archteacherawards.com.

– Staff writer Jenni Vincent can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 131.

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