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Eugenia Popa Is a Finalist for 2021 Minnesota Teacher of the Year


Eugenia Popa, English as a Second Language Teacher at Harding High School, has been named one of nine finalists for Education Minnesota's 2021 Teacher of the Year award. 

Ms. Popa has been an educator for 38 years, and has taught in her native country of Romania, the United Kingdom and Poland. She has been teaching English as a Second Language in Saint Paul Public Schools for the past 25 years at the elementary and secondary levels. The past six years have been at Harding.

"Working with children gives me energy, happiness and youth," Popa says. "Of course, I had amazing teachers who became my role models. I learned from them that nurturing, honesty, openness and building relationships are the most important factors in the classroom."

Ms. Popa loves working with English language learners, who bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences to the classroom and are so eager to learn. "They remind me of my own beginnings as a new immigrant trying to adjust to my adoptive country," she says.

Popa credits her colleagues at Harding, which she calls "her second home," for helping her through this incredibly challenging year. She hopes that the many things we've learned as a society throughout the pandemic will bring greater visibility and appreciation to the essential role that educators play in our communities.

"The pandemic has revealed how 'essential' the teaching profession is and how everything depends on schools and educators. It is clear we need to reform our educational system, provide resources for our schools and our students, and restore respect toward the teaching profession," she says. "I truly hope that legislators, policymakers and the general public have realized that it is imperative to adequately fund our schools. We need to change our mindset regarding education and view it as a necessary and profitable investment in our future. We owe it to our children and to our country."

Read the April 27 news release from Education Minnesota announcing the finalists. The previously scheduled May 2 Teacher of the Year banquet will take place later this year. A selection panel is tentatively scheduled to meet in June to conduct individual interviews with each of the nine finalists and to cast their votes.