Biodiesel educator named teacher of the year in South Carolina school district
In South Carolina, Richland School District Two announced Sept. 13 that the 2023-’24 District Teacher of the Year is Will Epps, a science teacher at Blythewood High School.
Superintendent Kim Moore and other district leaders made the surprise announcement Sept. 13 at Blythewood High as members of the school band played the hit “Eye of the Tiger” by American rock group Survivor.
Epps designed the Bengal Biodiesel program, an industrial experience in which students transform used cooking oil into biodiesel, a renewable alternative to diesel fuel.
The students use it to fuel the school tractor and hope in the future to fuel the district’s school-bus fleet.
Initially, the Bengal Biodiesel Lab produced 1 liter a week of biodiesel and now students are producing up to 150 gallons a week.
The program has garnered local and national attention and was featured on the television show MotorWeek.
In his nomination letter, Matthew Sherman, principal of Blythewood High, wrote, “At our school, we share a vision that was best expressed by Mahatma Gandhi who said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Will has embraced this philosophy and seeks opportunities to have a positive impact on teaching and learning every day.”
Epps will represent Richland Two as he competes for South Carolina Teacher of the Year.
He plans to share with others that it is important to trust students.
“We need to invest our time and energy in our students, and I think they respond when we do so,” Epps said. “When we trust our youth and bring them in to help solve problems and experience real-time, real-world experiences now, they will be better equipped to do so in the future.”
Epps holds two degrees from The Citadel, a Bachelor of Arts in teaching specialization in chemistry and comprehensive board field science, and a Master of Education in interdisciplinary STEM education.
Last month the district announced five finalists for District Teacher of the Year.
They included Stacey Higgins, Forest Lake Elementary NASA Explorer School; Kathia Rivera de Guzman, Pontiac Elementary School; Ahmad Stephens, Ridge View High School; and Jennifer Tinneny, Westwood High School.