Danville art teacher named Indiana’s 2020 teacher of the year in surprise ceremony

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DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — It was a surprise Katie Pourcho never saw coming.

On Thursday, hundreds of students, teachers and staff in Danville learned the educator at North Elementary School is Indiana’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

Pourcho’s passion for teaching is just as bright as the colors her students paint. She has taught art at North Elementary since 2010.

“Voices at Level Zero until she comes in,” said Principal Karen Perkins as she told students Pourcho would come down a hallway for the big reveal. “And when she does, we are going to be loud!”

“I’m so excited for her. It is well deserved,” Perkins said. “She brings so much to this building and our students. It is a recognition well-deserved.”

The entire gymnasium erupted in cheers and applause when Pourcho walked in. Her reaction was priceless. She smiled from ear-to-ear and wiped away tears from her eyes.

According to the Indiana Department of Education, Pourcho is a graduate of Ball State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Art Education, with K12 Honors. Following graduation, Pourcho began her teaching career at Danville’s North Elementary. Outside of the classroom, she is a member of the National Art Education Association and serves as communication liaison and coordinator for Danville Community School Corporation’s Art Department Professional Learning Community. Pourcho has also served as a new teacher mentor to art educators entering the classroom, and is a 2016 recipient of the Lilly Endowment LLC, Teacher Creativity Fellowship. Alongside teaching, Pourcho is a professional artist. Her most recent exhibition was a 2019 solo show at the Harrison Center for the Arts, and this past summer, she completed an art residency at L’Abri in Switzerland. 

“I was shocked!” Pourcho said. “Surprised to see loved ones, family and the children cheering. It was … quite surprised.”

Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of public instruction, said Pourcho is “an excellent educator, she’s a great person.

“She exemplifies what it means to celebrate the arts. She just was the whole package. We had a lot of great applicants, wonderful teachers in the state of Indiana. She was the best of the best this year.”

Pourcho said she tries to weave her teaching philosophy from three fictional characters.

“I wanted to be that firm but full of play character Mary Poppins,” Pourcho said. “I wanted to be that engaging, integrating, hands-on teacher that Miss Frizzle was. And to have that warmth and kindness of the character Miss Honey.”

Which is why there’s a message in most of the art on the school walls she and her students create.

“I believe my students are good artists. I believe that they have a bright future ahead of them,” Pourcho said.

Pourcho will be honored at the White House with other states’ teachers of the year in coming months. There will also be a banquet for Indiana’s nominees soon.

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