Alabama

Jacqueline Brooks

Position: Superintendent

School: Macon County Schools

School District: Macon County Schools

City, State: Tuskegee, Alabama

About the Nominee: Jacqueline Brooks was nominated by a friend, Cena Davis. Dr. Brooks was born in Tuskegee, AL, where she spent her entire childhood in the Crossroads Community in Roba, AL under the watchful eye of her grandmother, Mrs. Willie Lee Austin. Dr. Brooks is a Macon County native who graduated as valedictorian from South Macon High School. She earned her Bachelor's degree from Alabama State University and went on to work in Viera, FL as a teacher, team leader and principal. Dr. Brooks was appointed as interim superintendent in July 2010 and was later hired as superintendent, a role where she is changing lives. She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Terry Brooks, for 24 years. They currently live in Tuskegee, AL with their two children.

Dr. Brooks has been recognized by the Tuskegee-Macon County Chapter of NAACP and Omega Psi Phi, Inc for outstanding service. This past summer, she was named one of Macon County’s Top Women of Influence by the South East Small Business Magazine. She was selected as the District IV Superintendent of the Year for School Superintendents of Alabama (2014-15), as well District IV School Superintendents of Alabama President for two terms (2014-2016). She has authored a number of grants, including Touch the Stars Teen Pregnancy Prevention ($75,000), Teaching After School Students Enriching Lessons (TASSEL, $150,000), 21st Century Community Learning Centers ($300,000), Home Instruction for the Parents of Pre-school Youngsters ($160,000), McKinney Vento Competitive Grant ($52,000), etc. She also served as a contributor to the GEARUPALABAMA grant, which provides multiple opportunities for students, parents and families. It even provides free tuition for parents to continue their education.

Macon County has received the Apple ConnectEd grant, which provides technology for every teacher and student and has opened many doors for students and families. The ETECC (Every Teacher and Every Child Connected) is also a major initiative in Macon County. It was featured on Good Morning America in an interview between Robin Roberts and Apple CEO, Tim Cook.

Dr. Brooks defied the odds with the help of a supportive grandmother. She took advantage of multiple opportunities and developed a growth mindset wrapped in persistence and perseverance. She brings that passion back to Macon County in everything she does. The Macon County School System theme is knowledge, the light of life. Dr. Brooks believes in supporting her leaders and teachers while helping them establish and acquire the belief system and skills needed to lead. There is a laser focus on making learning relevant and providing students with real world experiences.

Dr. Brooks also realizes that supporting the whole community is required to leave a lasting impact and started the new initiative #BecauseMaconCountyCares2016. She stresses compassion and service. The purpose of this hashtag, #BecauseMaconCountyCares2016, is to help families struggling to feed their children during extended holiday breaks. Churches, agencies and community organizations partnered with Macon County Schools to make sure no student went hungry over the holiday break. Holiday meals are served for the entire community, with food being delivered to shut-ins and nursing homes. The most recent delivery occurred on December 22, 2016. Members of the Macon County community gathered to celebrate Christmas early with a special feast. In addition to the meal, every student received a food box.

Macon County faces financial and academic challenges, but Dr. Brooks' motivation and mindset has created a movement that is gaining momentum and causing meaningful change. She has high expectations for all students and leads by example. While Dr. Brooks is quick to give credit to others, she is the driving force behind the life-changing movement taking place in Macon County.

Kristina Story

Position: Enrichment Teacher

School: Lanett Jr. High School

School District: Lanett City Schools

City, State: Lanett, Alabama

About the Nominee: Kristina Story was nominated by her principal, Donna Bell. Mrs. Story is a LifeChanger because of her dedication to her students at school and in the community. On a daily basis, she makes a difference in the lives of her students. She meets her students where they are academically and challenges them to be high-achievers. Mrs. Story incorporates centers into her classroom, which runs like a well-oiled machine. Students know the expectations, and they strive to meet them. She teaches enrichment to about three-fourths of the students at Lanett Jr. High School. She also teaches a Freshman Academy at Lanett High School. Mrs. Story provides a safe, nurturing environment for her students. She listens to her students to understand them instead of talking "at" them. She understands that her students may forget some of the material she has taught them, but they will never forget how she made them feel. Mrs. Story also serves as the president of her school's Parent Teacher Student Organization (P.T.S.O.). She organizes parents to volunteer in her school for special events. Mrs. Story also organizes Parent Teacher Organization meetings for the district. This year, she was nominated for Lanett Jr. High School's Teacher of the Year by her colleagues. She also serves as the Girls' Varsity Volleyball Team coach. She can often be found at sporting events cheering for her students. Mrs. Story is not only a leader at school, but is also a leader in her church family. She lives her life demonstrating high morals and ethical standards. Mrs. Story has the qualities found in National Board Certified Teachers. She is a LifeChanger in her community!

Brian Copes

Position: High School Engineering Academy Teacher

School: Thompson High School

School District: Alabaster City Schools

City, State: Alabaster, Alabama

About the Nominee: Brian Copes was nominated by Cena Davis. Mr. Copes is the epitome of a LifeChanger who has the inborn desire to reach students far beyond the walls of his classroom. His classroom accomplishments are impressive.

In 2008, when he was a teacher at Calera High School, Mr. Copes taught eighth graders to reach far beyond their perceived ability by building basic utility vehicles capable of transporting goods/services in poorer countries. These students went through an amazing transformation, from struggling students to having a desire and thirst to go to school.

Mr. Copes entered these innovative students into a collegiate engineering competition, where they were the only non-collegiate team. His 8th grade students won first place, beating well known colleges and universities. The vehicles they built are now used in Honduras, including an ambulance, farm vehicle plowing fields and school bus. One of the vehicles was outfitted with a water-well drill that travels from village to village drilling life-giving water.

There is much more to the story. Mr. Copes’ students have also developed inexpensive prosthetic legs from automotive parts. The students' prosthetic legs have been refined and are mass producible at $40 each. He has led four teams of students and teachers to the jungles of Honduras, where they have not only delivered the basic utility vehicles, but have fitted twenty amputees with student-created prosthetic legs. In 2014, his students also constructed a hydroelectric power plant to generate electricity for a rural medical clinic.

Recently, Mr. Copes led a group of educators to Honduras to establish a sister school partnership. Education beyond elementary school is unaffordable to the people living in Jutiapa, where wages average $2.50 per day. During the 2013-2014 school year, he raised the necessary funds to add two rooms onto the Cefalu School in Honduras, thus allowing the offering of both middle and high school classes. Currently, 115 students are attending this school. In 2014, he and seven students traveled back to Jutiapa to install solar panels and build a basic utility vehicle that serves as a school bus.

In 2016, Mr. Copes led Information Technology (IT) students from Thompson High School to install computer labs in three different Honduran schools. These labs connected the Jutiapa schools to Alabaster City Schools. Teachers can turn on their web cams and share their lessons. The Earth Science students delivered and set up three water chlorinators. These chlorinators treat local water supplies by creating up to 30,000 gallons of safe drinking water per day. Students trained the Jutiapa community how to set up these chlorinators and use them to test their water sources. Health Science Academy students volunteered in a free medical clinic located at the base of the Cloud Forest. These students trained local Hondurans on basic emergency medical care. Many of the activities on this trip were filmed by students for a documentary that shows the students' life changing work.

The Sister School partnership prepares students to live and work in a twenty-first century global workforce. The project further develops students' hard and soft work skills, giving them a better understanding of cultural awareness and diversity. Most importantly, the students discovered a world outside of themselves and that they can change the world.

This summer, Mr. Copes desires to establish a sister school in "Olvidado," which means “forgotten”. Currently, Olvidado does not have a high school. His students’ goal is to build a small two room cement block building to be used for Olvidado's school.

The innovation and learning that Mr. Copes brings to his instruction is not limited to poorer countries. Other projects include: •development of inexpensive aquatic wheel chairs for special needs students •developing a side-by-side bicycle that allows a handicapped student to ride beside an adult •establishing a high tech green energy competition in Alabama known as Electrathon. Forty teams from four states participate in the Alabama Electrathon.

He has also developed a 501c3 non-profit organization named SKY (Skilled Knowledgeable Youth) to expand STEM programs.

Recently, Mr. Copes was recognized by the Varkley Foundation’s Global Teacher Award as one of the top fifty Teachers in the World. Not only is Mr. Copes a LifeChanger, but he is teaching his students and colleagues how to be LifeChangers, as well. His nominator, Cena, states that they are proud to have recruited him and worked with him, but most importantly, they are proud to call him a friend.

Denise Shivers

Position: Seventh Grade Math Teacher

School: Alexander City Middle School

School District: Alexander City BOE

City, State: Alexander City, Alabama

About the Nominee: Denise Shivers is an awesome team member and teacher. She is a woman of integrity who truly cares about the academic achievement of all her students. She works tirelessly to provide her students with entertaining lessons tailored to each student's unique learning style. Mrs. Shivers always has a positive demeanor and a kind word to share with her colleagues and students on a daily basis. She is a member of her school's leadership council. She truly cares about helping her students to be successful in her class and beyond. Mrs. Shivers is a true game changer at ACMS. She is constantly striving to perfect her craft to help improve student achievement in her classroom. She is visible at sporting events around campus. Mrs. Shivers is a LifeChanger at ACMS!

Towns Carlson

Position: Fourth Grade Teacher

School: Edgewood Elementary School

School District: Homewood City Schools

City, State: Homewood, Alabama

About the Nominee: Towns Carlson was nominated by her assistant principal, Laura Tate. Ms. Carlson is truly a dedicated teacher who goes above and beyond for her students. She often offers her students the chance to stay after school for tutoring. She does this simply because she has genuine care and concern for students. Furthermore, Ms. Carlson has given her time to becoming a coach for Girls on the Run. She teaches lessons as part of the Girls on the Run curriculum to educate girls on topics related to enriching character and building confidence. She also helps students set and achieve physical, emotional and educational goals.

Additionally, Miss Carlson has been a Program Director Assistant with Camp DeSoto in Mentone, AL. As you can see, she is truly an outstanding educator who changes lives for students in the Edgewood Elementary community. They are blessed to have her as an educator!