Teacher Interview Series – Mr. Popovich


Ben McCutchan, Author

As I walked into Mr. Popovich’s room, there were still several students who stayed behind to finish up the test they were working on. He teaches Academic Biology 1 and Anthropology, but this test was from Popovich’s most infamous class: Honors Anatomy and Physiology. The class is incredibly popular among seniors, but it is known for being quite rigorous.  Despite the difficulty of his courses, many students who have taken Mr. Popovich’s classes said that they enjoy having him as their teacher, and they voted for him to be the first teacher I interview here at HHS.

One of the first things I asked Mr. Popovich was why he wanted to become a teacher. Initially, he was not sure if he wanted to go to college to study education. His parents didn’t make much money when he was a kid, so he knew that he was going to need to pay for it himself. He went to Clarion University due to the fact that it is a fairly good science school and  it fit his budget well. Mr. Popovich told me that if college wouldn’t work out for him, he most likely would have gone to a trade school to learn woodworking and carpentry. 

He told me there were two teachers who inspired him: a history teacher named Mr. Bernardzya and a science teacher named Mr. McKinney (not the one at the end of G-Hall). Both of those people went beyond simply teaching and tried to connect with the students they taught. “I don’t remember much as to what those teachers taught me; I remember more about how they taught.” Today, Mr. Popovich bases his teaching philosophy from what he learned watching the teachers from his own school experience. 

In Mr. Popovich’s classroom, he likes to post the top scorers for his tests up on one of the walls in his classroom. Some students have criticized him saying that something like that would only add to an already over-competitive school. I brought this up to Mr. Popovich to hear his perspective on the matter. Mr. Popovich told me, “The reason I do that is because I want students to know that if they’re experiencing success in something, they can feel good about their accomplishments.” He went on to say that achieving a top score in any class is not easy to do. He cited the example of putting pictures of prior valedictorians on the wall or showcasing trophies and awards from athletes. “I don’t think in any of those instances, people are trying to make others feel bad. I think they’re meant to acknowledge those people’s accomplishments.” He expressed that he does not want other students to feel bad for not being a top scorer. In fact, Mr. Popovich said that when he is passing back tests, he will often provide genuine compliments to his individual students. His main goal in his classroom is to provide positive reinforcement to his students. 

Even though I have never had a class with Mr. Popovich, his genial mood during the interview made me realize why he is well-liked around the school. Many students report that they enjoyed taking his courses even though they are among some of the toughest offered here at HHS.