Human Interest Stories

After returning from an Underground Mine Tour at one of TECO Coal Company’s mines in Perry County, KY, Ms. Latonya Taylor-Rowe sent the following text in the form of an email to the management of CEDAR, Inc. Ms. Rowe is a fourth grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Johnson County, KY and has served on the Curriculum Team of the Mars Invasion 2030-From Coal Camp to Space Camp Program since its inception in 2008. This particular Tour was for a group of fourth grade teachers participating in the Mars program, and was part of a day-long workshop training session in preparation of implementing the program in their classrooms; 

Just wanted to touch base with you to thank you for allowing Carolyn, Karen and myself to think outside of the box when it comes to the way we conduct our Coal Camp to Space Camp trainings. Yesterday afforded me the opportunity to experience first hand what my husband so passionately enjoys doing.

This tour equipped me with knowledge I could never gain standing on the outside peering in. The gentlemen who conducted the tour were so kind and knowledgeable. They answered endless questions and patiently took time to give us a glimpse of all aspects of deep mining in Eastern Kentucky.

Several times yesterday I took the opportunity to stand in the background just to take it all in and I was so overwhelmed with the compassion and enthusiasm the coal miners expressed while demonstrating the job they obviously loved.Being able to experience this afforded me the opportunity to understand my husband’s compassion for his job. I am now able to understand why the twinkle in his eye is so evident when he converses with others about his job. Ollie has worked in the coal mines for thirty-four years and proudly tells anyone who ask that he loves what he does and does what he loves. 

Upon returning home yesterday Ollie and I were able to have a conversation about the different aspects of his job and I was able to understand what he was talking about. We talked a lengthy period of time about curtains, breaks, shuttle cars, conveyor belts, and so much more. He was eager to hear about the miner and what all I was able to see it do.

A big thank you to CEDAR and to you for affording me the opportunity to once again connect my husband's love for his job with the actual hands on experience of his job. Now if I can just get Ollie to visit my classroom to see and experience my job.

A teacher who served as the Coal Fair Coordinator for their elementary school wrote the following about their class’s participation in the 2008 CEDAR Coal Fair program; “ I am really proud of them (student projects) this year…I didn’t have as many but they are better quality and many students worked in groups. There are a few that I wish I could write a note for…This is (student’s name). He does not participate in class and is unmotivated; however, he was excited about this project and has put more effort into this project than all school work combined. He now says he wants to stay in school so he can take over his dad’s coal truck business.”

A parent of a CEDAR scholarship recipient stated that although they had worked in the coal industry all of their child’s life, the child never really knew very much about the industry. It was part way through their child’s freshman year in college that they shared with the parent that during a class where the subject of coal was being presented in a negative light by the professor, the student stood-up and took issue with the professor, placing coal in a more positive light relative to the topic being discussed. The parent stated that it was the knowledge gained through their child’s participation in the CEDAR Scholarship program that gave them the courage and confidence to take issue with their professor in front of the class.

An elementary student entered a coal fair project in the Math category that became a family project to determine the financial impact to their family, local area and region that leasing property to a local coal company would provide. This family was heirs in property that the coal company needed to lease in order to continue their mining operation in that particular area. Other family members were opposed to leasing, but after this student and her family completed her coal fair project they were convinced themselves and were subsequently able to convince the other family members that leasing their property to the coal company for the purpose of mining would be in everyone’s best interest.

A high school senior competing for a CEDAR scholarship experienced an attitude change after researching and discovering the important role the coal industry plays in his neighborhood, region, state and the nation by providing more than half our nations electrical generation. After realizing how much of his local and state economy is dependent on coal he began to change his attitude about the coal trucks that would pass his house around three o’clock every morning awakening him by the loud noises they made when hitting the potholes in the road. He stated that before his research he always, “sat-up in bed and cursed those trucks every time they woke me up”, but after learning about the importance of every truck, driver and load of coal, he now has a new appreciation for the industry and those who makes their living in the industry causing him to no longer curse those trucks, rather he realizes their importance to his community, region and state.

A teacher applied for and received a CEDAR grant for the purpose of creating, developing and implementing a Coal Study Unit in her classroom. This particular teacher was a known environmental activist who had been fighting a local coal company who was receiving coal ash by train from a utility that the company was shipping coal to and they were disposing of it in a fill area. The teacher committed to use the grant money for its intended use and not for any personal agenda. At the end of the unit implementation she made the comment that after creating, developing and implementing her study unit she had come to the conclusion that she was still an environmentalist, but unlike before she was now a pro-coal environmentalist.

An elementary student and three of his classmates entered a coal project in the Social Studies category of the CEDAR Regional Coal Fair. This student had recently loss his father in a mining accident and had withdrawn to the point he would not mention his fathers name nor have in his possession any pictures or other items relating to his father. As part of the teaching unit that their teacher was implementing the class went on a field trip to a mining complex that happened to include the mine where this young boy’s father had died. The first part of the field trip was spent in the company’s mine engineering office with the chief engineer giving a presentation about the mining industry in general and their mining operation in particular.

At the end of his presentation, the engineer asked if there were any questions at which time this young boy began asking a lot of questions, not revealing the reason for his interest. After a considerable amount of time the engineer started becoming agitated because the session was running over the allotted time plus the persistence that this child continued asking questions. After this session ended, the teacher had noticed the agitation of the engineer proceeded to inform him of the situation with this young boy, that his father had been killed in a mining accident on this particular property.

The group toured the complex on a bus with the company representative as a guild and when arriving at the very mine site where the boy’s father lost his life; the teacher informed him that this was the mine where his father was killed. The boy began asking more and more questions which the representative was more than pleased to spend the time necessary answering. This experience began the closure process that the boy had not yet been able to face. As a result of this field trip the group decided to do as their coal fair project a tribute to all miners who have lost their lives in the mines and with the focus being on this boy’s father. Together the class participated in the making of a quilt listing all coal miners who had lost their lives in the mines. This quilt, at one time, hung in the state capital in Frankfort, Ky. as a tribute to the Kentucky coal miners who had lost their lives in the mines. This young boy began wearing a tee shirt displaying his father’s picture that up to the time of the field trip he would never even acknowledge.

A man approached the president of West Kentucky CEDAR on the street one afternoon and asked him, “Are you that coal education man”? Yes he replied, how can I help you? The man, who obviously had just gotten off work from working in the mines evidenced by the black soot that covered his face and clothes, said “I want to thank you”. Not knowing what he meant the CEDAR president asked him why he was thanking him. He stated that he operated a roofbolter in the mines and that he had a daughter in the eight grade that had always been ashamed of the work he did, but she recently asked him to come speak to her class to explain to them what he did in the mines. The miner looked square in the man’s eyes and with a tear running down his cheek said, “I don’t believe she’s ashamed of me anymore”.

A teacher who implemented a Coal Study Unit in her classroom stated that her husband works in the mines and that prior to her involvement in CEDAR she had no interest in learning anything about his job. During her unit’s implementation, which included a visit to the mine, she gained an appreciation of the mining industry that she had never had before. She said that one of the benefits she received from doing the unit was that now at the dinner table her and her husband have something in common that they can talk about, which is his day’s work, making their dinner time more enjoyable.