North Central alumna Karen Popovich named 2012 Illinois Art Educator of the Year

Oct 31, 2012

The Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA) has named North Central College alumna Karen Popovich the 2012 Illinois Art Educator of the Year.

Popovich, of Aurora, teaches at Indian Prairie School District 204’s Metea Valley High School in Aurora. She earned her bachelor’s degree in studio art from North Central College in 1996.

The annual award recognizes the exemplary contributions, service and achievements of an outstanding IAEA member. The award will be presented at the IAEA conference in Lisle on Nov. 2.
Popovich was selected on the basis of her outstanding commitment to visual art education in her field as well as her wider contributions in the northeastern Illinois region. Popovich is a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught at Metea Vally High School since 2009. She began her career 17 years ago at the elementary level and then moved to the middle school level five years later.

In 2007, she was named Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA) Middle School Art Educator of the Year. She has been honored with many other awards including The Naperville Sun’s A+ Teachers Recognition honor in 2012, Indian Prairie’s Most Influential Educator Award in 2004 and 2012 and a Golden Apple Award nomination in 2007.

“Her awards pale in comparison to her concern for the personal and skill development of her students,” Metea Valley High School Principal Jim Schmid said of Popovich.

The high quality of work by Popovich’s students is evidenced by their consistently strong showings in Scholastic Art Competitions, Upstate Eight Conference competitions and Congressional Art Show competitions.

Popovich uses art in her curriculum to inspire and help children around the world including the design and painting of a tent to be used as a classroom for refugees in Darfur, Sudan and “The Memory Project,” an art experience where students in the United States create portraits as gifts for children in Nambia, Africa. She is involved in all areas of student growth including National Honor Society Sponsor, Art Club Sponsor, Digital Photography Club Sponsor and is the Metea Valley News Liaison.

She regularly shares her ideas with the art education field as a National Art Education Association (NAEA) and IAEA conference presenter, as a contributor to many IAEA Mosaic publications and by serving on the IAEA board as state secretary since 2010.

“I would like to thank the IAEA for this wonderful honor,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to have a job that I love, the opportunity to work with wonderful colleagues and the ability to work with students that continue to amaze and inspire me each year.”

Popovich’s honor is the latest accolade for alumni of North Central College’s exceptional and rigorous education program. Josh Stumpenhorst ’03 was named 2012 Illinois Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Education Association, Robert Taylor M’00 was one of 10 educators named a Golden Apple Fellow for 2012, and Kimberly Lisanby-Barber ’77 was named 2012-2013 Elementary School Principal of the Year by the Illinois Principals Association.

North Central College offers an undergraduate degree in elementary education—with opportunities to earn minors in secondary education, reading and English language learning. Undergraduate majors also are offered in art education, music education and physical education, as well as a minor in health education. The College offers a master of arts degree in education, with emphasis in curriculum and instruction or educational leadership and administration. 

The IAEA is an association of the art educators of Illinois. The organization has been serving children and art educators of Illinois for more than 75 years by providing professional development for educators through workshops, conferences, grants, exhibition opportunities, facilitating communication, promoting conditions for the effective teaching of art, and working to influence educational change and reform. Visit to learn more.