Only 10 teachers in the entire state of Wyoming receive the prestigious Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award each year. This year, two of them were teachers from Lovell High School. Arch Coal Representative Del Ann Dowling said she had only seen two teachers from the same school receive the award one other time since her involvement with the award presentations, but it was a much larger school in Casper.
Teachers Jeny Gardner and Joshua Sanders were this year’s recipients of the award, after being considered against a field of around 300 other teachers from throughout the state. The two were honored on Tuesday during a teacher appreciation luncheon at the school, where each received a custom glass trophy inscribed with their name and a check for $3,500 to use as they see fit.
Gardner has been a teacher at Lovell High School for three years. She teaches math at all levels and AP statistics. She is also an assistant high school football coach. She formed the first ever chess club for students at the school and acts as the Upward Bound Math and Science sponsor for the school. She also chairs what LHS Principal Scott O’Tremba described as one of the most critical committees at the school, the MTSS committee, where she and others focus on adapting a “multi-tiered approach” to education at the school. O’Tremba praised her for taking on a committee that is challenging, yet at the same time a great benefit to students.
“At the time (she was hired) Mrs. Gardner’s main experience had been teaching middle school math,” wrote O’Tremba in his letter of recommendation to Arch Coal. “She quickly adapted to the high school level including some upper level classes. This past year she was accepted as an AP statistics teacher. This was a great accomplishment by her and for our students, as we had never had an AP class or offered statistics. This is typical of Mrs. Gardner, who is always willing to take on a challenge if it benefits students.”
O’Tremba went on to describe Gardner as a “go getter teacher.”
“In the classroom, Mrs. Gardner has proven to be an innovative teacher who has connected with students who have not always enjoyed math,” said O’Tremba. “Many have commented how she has made the learning fun and prepared them for the future.”
Special Education Paraprofessional Catherine Leithead said, “Being in Jeny’s classroom is exciting and fun. She lightens the mood by bringing laughter into her lessons. She uses real-life examples to teach math concepts, helping students to realize that they really will use this stuff in their everyday lives. Students gravitate to her classroom because they feel comfortable there, and they enjoy the atmosphere she creates.”
Leithead, who spends a large part of her time assisting in Gardner’s classroom, said she also appreciates that Gardner treats her like an equal.
Sanders has been teaching social studies at the school for 12 years. He also coaches track and field. He is an active member of the school’s professional learning community and has helped revise the assessment system and essential learning targets for his department. He has also served as a sponsor to the student council and as a senior class sponsor. In some cases, he has stepped up to serve as principal in O’Tremba’s absence.
“Mr. Sanders seems to know how to make the changes that need made when they need made without throwing out the instruction that is foundational to student learning,” said O’Tremba.
O’Tremba described Sanders as “a teacher who knows how to mix the art with the science of teaching.” He noted that often former students name Sanders as one of the teachers who prepared them the most for college. He also praised Sanders as “one of the most dedicated persons in the teaching profession” he has worked with in his 19 years as a principal.
O’Tremba also praised Sanders for his work outside of the classroom.
“He is an excellent track and field coach,” said O’Tremba. “He has coached our teams to state championships and has a great reputation with his athletes and their parents as a coach who uses athletics as an instrument to help young people grow and mature and learn lifelong lessons.”
Curriculum Director Nancy Cerroni wrote in her letter of recommendation that Sanders “cares deeply about his students and about the quality instruction he delivers.”
She described him as “a master of content” and noted his ability to “ignite students’ passion” about a subject.
“Mr. Sanders has a knack for using simulations to put his students into the shoes of those they study,” said Cerroni. “I watched his students bring some Western Hemisphere ancient civilizations to life through research and presentations. I listened while Mr. Sanders led a group discussion on a primary source of a letter written by Christopher Columbus. Our students need to understand history as they move toward the future. I believe this to be his professional goal for his students.”
Cerroni said she thought his greatest strength was his ability to relate to his students.
“He treats them with utmost respect through attentive listening, giving constructive feedback and valuing their input,” she said.
Sanders said he’s thinking about using his $3,500 award to build a shed that will help him be more organized at home. Gardner said she plans to put her award toward a vacation her family has been planning on a Disney cruise ship.
Both teachers acknowledged their spouses for their support and expressed their gratitude for the recognition of their efforts.
By Patti Carpenter