While the governor says Alabama education “sucks”, newspaper columnists claim we are lying about graduation rates and politicians claim “school choice” is our only salvation, along comes Brian Copes, engineering teacher in the Alabaster City school system and news that he is one of 50 worldwide educators in consideration for a $1 million prize in recognition of his outstanding record.

How could it be?  Why that is as outlandish as thinking a college football team from backwater Alabama could be No. 1 in the country.

But it is true.  And AL.com reporter Erin Edgemon does a great job of telling Bran’s story here.  Some excerpts:

“Alabaster City Schools engineering teacher Brian Copes, named one of People magazine’s teachers of the year in 2012, is on the shortlist for a prestigious global prize.

Copes, who teaches at Thompson High School, is one of five teachers from the United States in the Top 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2017.  The winner receives $1 million.

If he wins the prize, which will be announced in March, Copes said he plans to use the money to continue developing sister schools in rural Honduras.  This includes building schools, donating computers and other technology and setting up Skype communications between schools in Alabama and Honduras.

I think we are going to see a tremedous impact in the economies in the communities where we have sister schools,” he said.  “In turn, our students are learning how to work in a 21st century (global) workforce.”

Copes started teaching engineering to help inspire students who needed encouragement.  He utilizes project-based learning by teaching important science, technology, engineering and math skills by working on projects that could help others in less developed countries.

Last summer, Copes took a group of students to set up the first of three sister schools in Jutiapa, Honduras.  His students refurbished old computers discarded by Alabaster City Schools and brought them to students in rural Honduras.

Nearly 10 years ago, Copes began having his engineering students, first at Chelsea Middle School, and then later at Calera High School build all-terrain vehicles using ordinary hand tools that could be used by people in Central America.  The students designed vehicles that utilized industrial-strength metal water pipes as the frame.

Copes’ students also began constructing less-expensive prosthetic limbs including legs and hands using automobile and bicycle parts.”

A wonderful example of the kind of dedication found in schools across the state.