Lifelong learner, life-changing teacher: Greenville Elementary’s Teacher of the Year, Nena Copeland
Fourth-grade teacher Nena Copeland has been named Greenville Elementary’s Teacher of the Year! Copeland’s eyes light up when she talks about teaching fourth grade. She loves that fourth graders are so young and sweet, but still capable of having deep conversations. She appreciates the opportunity to have these conversations with her students and dedicates herself to helping them through their challenges.
Before teaching at Greenville, Copeland and her husband worked for eight years at a school for teenagers with addictions and behavior issues. After getting her degree, Copeland worked with preschool and high school special education. This experience inspired her to focus her career on working with students in their early, formative years of learning. She made the switch to fourth grade, specializing with students with special needs, and is now in her eighth year of teaching at Greenville.
Copeland hopes that her students focus on the positive when they are faced with difficulties. She teaches them to feel empowered in hard situations instead of feeling helpless. “I want to help my students realize that they can do hard things,” she explained, “and that they can overcome hard things --it's just a choice. Being proactive is super important.” She continued, “I want my students to think about what they can do and not what they can't do--and find a solution to anything they struggle with.”
Not only does Copeland have a passion for teaching, but she also has a passion for learning. She graduated from Utah State University with a dual major in elementary and special education. She also has two master's degrees — one in English Language Learning (ELL) for all content areas and another administrative master's degree in educational leadership. Copeland finds it fun to learn and grow, and whenever she realizes that she doesn’t know how to do something, she seeks a way to learn how to do it.
Because Copeland remembers how challenging it was for her to learn a second language during a time when she lived abroad in Brazil, empathy drives her to learn ways to better help her students overcome their own challenges. “I hate to be sedentary,” she said. “I want to learn, and I want to be a leader that people would follow.”
Along with her degrees, Copeland is constantly pursuing endorsements and taking classes to further develop her skills as an educator and leader. She currently works on the team developing an online curriculum for Cache Students Connect.
Principal Troy Pugmire is honored to have Copeland as a part of the Greenville staff. "Nena always has her students' best interests in mind,” he said. “She inspires students to achieve at high levels and instills in them a love of learning. She is kind and genuinely loves her students.” Pugmire also acknowledged Copeland’s valuable contributions to school and district committees, calling her “an amazing teacher who is truly making a difference!” He concluded, “Greenville students, staff, and parents are lucky to have her."