Jelena (Yelena) Popovic, M.A, C.A.G.S, NCSP is best described as a “hearticulator" and an "experienced beginner", who inspires others to search for their inner genius with curiosity and compassion. She is a life-long learner with a passion for education and teaching social-emotional skills to children. She is a mom, Teaching Peace in Schools leadership council lead for The Peace Alliance (www.peacealliance.org), Mindful Schools mentor, brain science buff, recovering school psychologist, relaxation coach and mindfulness educator.
As a Serbian teenage immigrant to U.S, Jelena started her work with children many years ago as a day care assistant while learning English and saving for college. That job steered her into education/psychology career path with a little diversion into the field of neuroscience. After spending few years at the National Institute of Health researching glial cells, Jelena steered from microscope back into the classroom earning her graduate degree in school psychology from Tufts University. She was a practicing school psychologist for twelve years, has been on the board of local and state school psychology associations, but felt disconnected with her initial intention for being an educator, which was to grow meaningful connections with children, families and educators.
After experiencing great benefits of daily mindfulness practices in her own life, Jelena began a search to find developmentally appropriate methods of teaching mindfulness and relaxation to children. Her search led her to travel to Oxford, England to train with Relax Kids (www.relaxkids.com) and to embark on a multi-year training journey with Mindful Schools (www.mindfulschools.org).
Equipped with fantastic frameworks, experience in psychology and education, neuroscience knowledge and creative ideas, Jelena has been a passionate advocate for introducing brain science, mindfulness and relaxation to others. She has been teaching mindfulness in the classrooms from PreK to high school in South and North Carolina, conducting mindfulness based small group sessions for children at public, private and boarding schools, doing teacher and parent workshops, and facilitating school districts efforts in skillful, district-wide and sustainable implementation of mindfulness practices though a unique communities of practice model. She loved teaching mindfulness to children before a Miami Heat’s NBA game alongside Heat’s mascot Burnie, taught mindfulness to grieving parents, incarcerated youth, grandparent and pregnant teens support groups, presented at Research to Practice Institute sponsored by South Carolina Department of Education, and state conferences about the science and benefits of relaxation and mindfulness in education as well as being a passionate advocate for culturally responsive teaching and assessment practices. In June 2016, Jelena led an inaugural Mindfulness for Educators Retreat at Newberry College in collaboration with South Carolina teacher organization CERRA and sponsored by the Newberry College Department of Education (http://mindfulnessretreat.weebly.com)
Jelena is honored to be certified as the first Relax Kids USA Teacher Trainer offering training to adults who wish to learn the Relax Kids method. In July 2016, she became the first educator from South Carolina to complete a year-long certification training with Mindful Schools. She is a Mindful Schools mentor for educators who are enrolled in Mindful Schools Year-long program and is a part of Mindful Schools pilot program organizing and facilitating Mindful Educators Meetups in Greenville, South Carolina. Jelena is also honored to serve on the Peace Alliance Leadership Council as the Teaching Peace in Schools Lead. Peace Alliance is an international organization promoting peace building as societal norm.
Jelena’s mindfulness practice consists of continuous curiosity and awe about the mind and everyday gratitude for seemingly ordinary, yet extraordinary moments.