THS teacher named as LifeChanger of the Year finalist

ALABASTER – Thompson High School pre-engineering teacher Brian Copes was recognized as one of the top five contenders for the Life Changer of the Year award during a surprise announcement on Tuesday, April 3.

Copes was recognized because of the engineering work he and his students have done and are currently doing internationally. Over the years, students under Copes’s leadership have taken multiple trips to Honduras, where they have built basic utility vehicles, developed prosthetic legs from automotive parts and constructed a hydroelectric power plant for a rural medical clinic.

According to LifeChanger of the Year director Mallorie Manosh, Copes was selected to receive the distinction out of 825 educators that were nominated throughout the United States.

“LifeChanger of the Year is (financial services company) National Life Group’s educator’s recognition program,” Manosh said. “We’re looking for someone who, on a daily basis, is making a difference in the lives of their students.”

Manosh said the finalists were selected by a committee of award winners from the past year, and the 2018 winner will be named at a ceremony in Bermuda in May. Because he was selected, Copes received a $5,000 prize. If he is announced the winner, Copes will receive an additional $5,000 for a total of $10,000.

Copes said he was “in awe” when the news was delivered to him that morning. He said he was more focused on using the award to highlight the accomplishments of his students, rather than himself.

“To me, it’s fantastic to have my students recognized for what they’ve been doing in the community and throughout the world,” Copes said. “I never thought that I would be recognized like this.”

If it were not for Copes, THS freshman James Bazan said he would not have realized his ambitions of working in the engineering field.

“I’ve made a good friendship with Mr. Copes,” Bazan said. “I would like to be an engineer, and he pushed that dream forward. He’s an all-around great teacher.”

Copes’s wife, Angel Copes, said she had a hard time keeping her husband’s selection from him when she was contacted by financial services company National Life Group.

“He’s been nominated before, but this is the first time that they have contacted me,” Angel Copes said.

Angel Copes said she has seen firsthand how her husband has helped many of his students reach their full potential.

“When a student builds a prosthetic leg out of a Corolla part, Brian doesn’t say, ‘You can’t do that.’ He says ‘Show me your vision,'” Angel Copes said. “Brian is one of many awesome teachers here, and I’m proud that he’s being recognized today.”

Alabaster City Schools Superintendent Wayne Vickers said he was proud of Copes and happy to have ACS represented in the LifeChanger of the Year program.

“I’m proud of him and the engineering program at THS,” Vickers said. “To be recognized as one of the top five teachers in the nation is unbelievable.”