Laura Coppler has been a science teacher for 13 years and said she has always been a science nerd. Her father was always out... The happy scientist: Coppler enjoys teaching at Elizabeth Davis Middle School

Laura Coppler has been a science teacher for 13 years and said she has always been a science nerd.

Her father was always out in the garden during her childhood, and she said her fourth-grade teacher was the first teacher to ignite her interest in science.

Coppler teaches science at Elizabeth Davis Middle School, where she has been for the last four years and where she was chosen as Teacher of the Year. She previously taught at Matoaca Middle School.

“I always wanted to get back into the classroom and try to encourage students to love learning and love science because I’m a learner. I like to learn,” she said.

Coppler majored in biology at the University of Lynchburg. She has a masters in entomology and plant pathology from Auburn University and a teacher endorsement in biology and earth science. She said being a scientist would help her to be a better science teacher.

“At Auburn, my goal was to work at a research station where I could combine research and education,” she said. “I wanted to be in charge of creating and running field trips for students of all ages and doing public outreach and education.”

She was an agricultural research specialist at Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research Extension for 2 1/2 years before she became a teacher.

Coppler loves interacting with her students and said they keep her on her toes.

She said it’s refreshing to see improvement in her students, and her job is to warm them over to the dark side of science.

Science teachers have always thought outside of the box because of lab work, Coppler said, noting she likes to teach through stories and make her lessons “real world” applicable.

“I try to trick them into learning essentially by telling them stories, and then they’re like, ‘Oh, that story had a purpose,” she said.

Coppler is credited with continuing her school’s recycling program. An aluminum can drive is used to raise funds for and support the science department labs.

She also helps out with the cross country and track teams.

“I tell my students all the time: ‘I’m here to teach you science, but I’m really here to teach you how to be a productive citizen,’” she said.