Teacher deserves national honor

When “People” magazine asked its readers to nominate candidates for the publication’s first Teacher of the Year competition, applications flooded the offices.

Eventually, “People” editors and members of an advisory board were able to whittle all those worthy applicants down to a final five, who represent some of the best that American education has to offer.

Among those five were a band director, a leadership development teacher, a special education teacher, a physics and chemistry teacher and a pre-engineering teacher.

That last teacher, the pre-engineering instructor, is likely well-known to many of you. That’s because his name is Brian Copes, and he teaches at Calera High School.

Through Copes’ leadership, Calera students have changed lives by traveling to Honduras and fitting amputees with low-cost prosthetic legs the students made from Toyota car parts.

In October 2011, when we reported that students were getting ready for the Honduras trip, then-junior Korien Custard said the prosthetic leg project was “mind-boggling.”

“Being my age, I never thought I’d have time to build a leg and help people out,” he said. “Working on this leg and helping people out is one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made.”

Through Copes’ class, Calera students are learning about engineering as a viable career path and — more importantly — how they can use their skills to better the lives of others who are less fortunate.

Officials from Magnolialand Entertainment, an Alabama-based film company creating a documentary based on the Honduras trip, nominated Copes for the “People” magazine honor. When that documentary is released, it’ll just be another way people can see how education is enhancing the lives of students and educators in Shelby County.

Copes and his class will be featured in the next issue of “People” magazine, again showing readers across the county how innovative schools in Shelby County can be. Copes will be honored at an Oct. 10 awards banquet during a much-deserved trip to New York City. Congratulations to him for the recognition given his hard work, and congratulations to Calera High School for having one of the country’s best teachers.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.