Five Questions with teacher Karen Popovich
By Jane Donahue For The Sun February 14, 2013 12:14PM
Teacher Karen Popovich (left) works with Metea Valley High School senior Maren Eriksen-Russo during an art independent study course. | Jane Donahue/For Sun-Times Media/Naperville Sun 20130211 Monday,Aurora
Updated: March 23, 2013 6:04AM
Karen Popovich’s passion for art began long before she became an art teacher.
“I knew that I wanted to teach when I grew up, and as my interest and passion in art grew, I knew that this was the field for me,” the Metea Valley High School teacher said. “ I wanted to prepare myself for a career that would challenge me, provide me with the opportunity to share my passion for art with students, and ultimately give me the opportunity to make a difference in students’ lives. “
After being named the 2012 Illinois Art Educator of the Year by the Illinois Art Education Association, Popovich recently received the 2013 National Secondary Art Educator of the Year award from the National Art Education Association.
“I am honored to receive this award and represent Metea Valley and District 204 at the National Art Convention,” said Popovich, of Aurora. “This award truly is not possible without all of the guidance and support I have received from my colleagues and administrators and the amazing talents, passion and work ethic exhibited by my students.”
Popovich has been a member of the District 204 team for 17 years, teaching at both Hill Middle and Springbrook Elementary schools before Metea opened in 2009. The Aurora high school is in stark contrast to her alma mater — Neponset High School in central Illinois — where she had a graduating class of 10 students.
“I loved growing up in a small town and attending the high school that so many of my family members had attended,” the 39-year-old said. “I was able to find an opportunity to pursue my art through 4-H projects and actually went to Kewanee High School for art since Neponset didn’t offer any art classes. Neponset and Kewanee had a nice co-op agreement, and students traveled there for some classes and sports that were not offered at Neponset.”
Metea Valley High School Principal Jim Schmid said Popovich “is the consummate team player, leading our art professional learning community and consistently sharing ‘best practice’ with her colleagues.”
“This award speaks to the positive impact Karen has on her students and the professional approach she exhibits on a daily basis,” Schmid said. “She has a passion for art and the opportunity it provides students to express themselves through many different mediums.”
When she isn’t teaching or lending a voice to a number of art advocacy committees, Popovich can be found spending time with her husband and two young boys.
1. Why is art an important part of education?
“A strong arts education program promotes critical thinking, collaboration, creativity skills and provides a forum for self-expression. All of these skill sets are important to help our students become successful citizens no matter what career they choose to pursue.”
2. Is there a specific medium that particularly interests you?
“I have an interest in a variety of different art methods, and techniques but two stand out as my favorites: collagraph printmaking and fiber felting.”
3. What do you enjoy most about being an educator?
“I enjoy the positive relationships that I have developed with my students. I have had this unique opportunity to observe them grow and mature as artists and individuals. It is very rewarding to see that sparkle of passion in students eyes as they showcase their work with pride and are able to reflect on their achievements.”
4. Did you have a teacher that inspired you?
“I have had many wonderful teachers, but my most influential teacher was Mrs. Kord (from Neponset High School). She was able to motivate and challenge all students and implemented very inventive ways for her students to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject, whether it be medieval castles or Shakespeare. She understood different learning styles and provided creative strategies for us to express our knowledge and understanding.”
5. What do you do in your spare time?
“I enjoy spending time with my family. I am actively involved in arts advocacy committees. These professional development opportunities help me be a better teacher and provide me an opportunity to contribute to the field of art education.”
Nominate a Naperville resident for 5 Questions by emailing editor Heather Pfundstein at firstname.lastname@example.org