By JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
Laura Bobbera is a born teacher. Indeed, education is in her blood. Her family has taught for generations. “For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher,” she said.
Bobbera was recently recognized for excellence by the Arch Coal Foundation.
The Mingo County teacher, who teaches an orchestra and guitar class at Mingo Central in addition to general music at Gilbert Elementary, was given a Golden Apple Achiever Award as part of the foundation’s Teacher Achievement Awards program.
Twelve West Virginia teachers received Teacher Achievement Awards, John R. Snider, Arch Coal, Inc. Vice President for external affairs, said.
“Last month, Arch Coal honored 12 teachers with our Teacher Achievement Award,” said Snider. “The Golden Apple Achiever Award is presented to teachers who submitted exemplary applications to the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards program and came close to being honored with the Foundation’s major award.”
Still active after twenty years, the Teacher Achievement Award is the state’s longest running teacher recognition program.
Nominations for outstanding teachers are usually submitted by parents, co-workers, or students, however anyone in the public can nominate a teacher. All teachers whose names are submitted receive an application detailing the requirements and the four topics to be addressed:Teaching as a Profession, Teacher Philosophy, Educational Development/Professional Achievement, and Community Service. These essays and three letters of recommendation are then sent to Arch Coal to be judged. Twelve educators are named the winner of the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award, a $3,500 cash award given to each recipient. Others who submitted a quality package but one that did not score in the top 12 receive the Golden Apple Award, a certificate recognizing effort.
“Our panel of peer judges - past recipients of the award - indicated the applications this year were of very high quality, which made selections difficult,” said Snider. “West Virginia has many superior classroom teachers who deserve recognition. I hope each of these teachers will be nominated again next year because classroom teaching excellence is one of the keys to student achievement.”
Bobbera said she had teachers that inspired her, and still feels that connection to her students.
“After twenty-three years in the profession, I still find teaching to be a highly rewarding career,” she said. “The love my students show me, their pride in a job well done, their wonderful, fresh ideas, and those ‘ah’ moments when they have created an aesthetically pleasing piece keep me trying to do the best I can for them.”
“I come from a long line of teachers on both sides of my family,” Bobbera said. “Both of my sisters teach, one has taught at the college level and now teaches at a high school and the other homeschools. My mother taught school in Michigan on a war time permit during World War II and for several years in California. My father taught at the University of Rome before coming to the United States. My uncle was a physics professor and an aunt taught English.”
Bobbera said her grandmother began her teaching career at the age of 16 in 1908 in a one room schoolhouse in Nebraska. Her sister, Bobbera’s great aunt, also taught in the one room school houses in Nebraska and later in Colorado.
Bobbera told the story of her paternal grandfather, a high school teacher in Rome, who took a stand for his principles, and how his teaching career suffered the consequences.
“At the time he was teaching, Mussolini was in power, and one had to belong to the Facist Party to teach at the college level,” she said. “Since my grandfather refused to join, he was only allowed to teach high school.”
Bobbera said the reward she cherishes is knowing she has made an impact on her students’ lives.
“A motivating force is the feedback that I receive from past students years after they have left my class who inform me that my work made a difference,” she said. “It enriched someone’s life forever.“