Applications Available for National Teacher Award Named for W.Va. Educator

January 08, 2008

CHARLESTON, W.Va. _ Teachers from across West Virginia are invited to apply for the Freida J. Riley Teacher Award, named for a former McDowell County teacher.

The award is presented by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation to an American teacher who works with a physical disability, teaches in an especially challenging educational environment, or has performed a heroic act by making an exceptional, personal or physical sacrifice on behalf of students. The winner receives $10,000.

Riley, who taught math, science and physics at Big Creek High School during the space race of the 1950s and 1960s, died at age 31 from Hodgkin’s disease. She inspired her students to overcome the limited opportunities of their era and environment to aspire to fulfill their dreams. Her students included Homer Hickam, Jimmy Carroll, Roy Lee Cooke, Willie Rose and Quentin Wilson, whose lives were depicted in Hickam’s novel the Rocket Boys and the subsequent film October Sky.

The deadline for applications is Feb. 4, 2008. Interested educators can apply online at Official rules and guidelines are also posted on the same Web site. For more information, contact Judith Shellenberger, executive director of the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, at (315) 258-0090 or by e-mail at

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.