Calera teacher named 2014 Best Environmental Educator

Published 11:51 am Wednesday, February 19, 2014

By GINNY COOPER / Staff writer

CALERA—Calera High School teacher Brian Copes was named the 2014 Best Environmental Educator by the Environmental Education Association of Alabama.

Copes (File).

Copes (File).

Copes is accustomed to receiving accolades: He was named one of five best teachers in the nation by “People” magazine and the documentary “Children Changing the World” was filmed about the work his engineering students do in Honduras.

“(This award) was something I wasn’t overly familiar with,” Copes said. “It’s just one of those great surprises.”

Liz Cochran of the Department of Economic and Community Affairs nominated Copes after seeing the “Children Changing the World” documentary, Copes said.

In his almost two decades as an educator, Copes has led many projects such as a trip to Honduras where his students fitted 14 amputees with prosthetic limbs and taught local teens how to build basic utility vehicles, one of which is currently used as an ambulance in the area.

This award, however, focuses on his work with hydroelectric power and bio diesel fuel the students are making using French fry grease.

“A big part of what I teach is community service,” Copes said. “Most all of our projects have a community theme to them. It’s like in ‘Robots,’ ‘See a need, fill a need.’ It’s something I try to instill in my students.”