In Memory of Mrs. Danae Popovich


Stephanie Wang, News Editor

Arcadia Unified School District (AUSD) has experienced a great loss—Mrs. Danae Popovich, a longtime educator in AUSD, has passed away.

Beginning her career in AUSD as a teacher at Camino Grove Elementary School in 2004, Mrs. Popovich was later named an Academic Program Coach before becoming Principal of Camino Grove.

Following over a decade of leadership at Camino Grove, she joined the staff at the Arcadia Education Center as Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, where she utilized her knowledge and experience as an educator to improve the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support at AUSD. 

Mrs. Popovich also served as an integral member of the AUSD bargaining team, where she quickly formed a close friendship with current Arcadia High School (AHS) English teacher, Ms. Nicole Zaidi, bonding over their shared passions for both education and fashion.

“She was lovely,” said Ms. Zaidi. “As soon as [you’d] meet her, [she’d] smile, and [there’d] be a very sincere and genuine aura about her. She was just a really beautiful, welcoming person.”

In addition to Mrs. Popovich’s infectious kindness and positivity, Ms. Zaidi also admired her incredible leadership and praise for her colleagues—as a member of the bargaining team, she reached out to other educators in the district to figure out common interests and values, and as a principal, she led the staff of Camino Grove.

“She would just go on and on, gushing about [her colleagues] as these great people working and collaborating and getting along for the betterment of the students, and whenever she would do that, it just made me smile,” laughed Ms. Zaidi. “It made me proud, and I don’t even work there [Camino Grove].”

“I really thought she was just an amazing leader, an amazing person, an amazing woman,” Ms. Zaidi continued. “I’m saddened by her life cut short, yet what a life she had. You have to celebrate and admire somebody like she was.”

Like Ms. Zaidi, Dr. Angie Dillman, the current principal of AHS and a fellow member of the district-wide bargaining team, also received guidance from Mrs. Popovich when she first became a part of the team, and remembers Mrs. Popovich as an incredibly kind, humorous person both inside and outside the office.

“When you’re in something like union bargaining, no one tells you, ‘This is when you listen, this is when you talk, this is what you need to do’, but [Mrs. Popovich] really took me under her wing,” said Dr. Dillman, recounting her experience as a new member. “She listen[ed] to teachers, she replie[d] with compassion, she identifi[ed] with teacher needs because of what she s[aw] in her staff.”

Dr. Dillman also looked back with fondness on her shared memories with Mrs. Popovich after meeting her for the first time in 2014 at a summer retreat for AUSD administrators, especially after the two talked and snacked on chips and salsa together. 

“This is a super nice and kind person, but I was kind of intimidated by her knowledge and capacity,” said Dr. Dillman about her first impression of Mrs. Popovich. “She just knew so much about instruction and especially how to support students.”

As a teacher and educator, Mrs. Popovich also consistently went above and beyond to support students, and in Dr. Dillman’s eyes, was especially talented in not only identifying and addressing the needs of students, but also in teaching other educators to do the same. 

“She just created such a positive environment where everyone was able to share their experiences, and they felt valued and getting everyone to come back [to] a place of compassion and a place of service—a place of always wanting our schools to be better not just for students, but for a good place to work, too.”

For her ability to warm the hearts of so many throughout Arcadia and beyond, Mrs. Popovich will always be remembered with fondness.

Photo courtesy of AUSD