Early in her life, Judy Kropp discovered and began cultivating her passions and what would be her life’s work. As a young child, growing up in Ohio, she begged her parents to allow to her take piano lessons; they agreed and realized relatively quickly that she was serious about her love of music. After 10 years of playing the piano, she began her college career at Heidelberg College with a major in Music Education, K-12. During her summer vacations, Kropp worked at a local public library and a corporate library. She also found a home in local summer theater groups.
After college, Kropp began her teaching career in Ohio, where she met her husband, Larry, a coach at the same school. “I actually met Larry at church and asked a friend to set us up. We married in 1979 and have two daughters: Jessica and Sarah. I loved raising godly children. As a mom, I had it easy. I have great kids,” said Kropp.
In 1992, the Kropps decided to leave the cold climate in Ohio and moved to Mena, where they both began teaching locally, Larry at Rich Mountain Community College, and Judy at Mena Public Schools.
She was not in town long before being asked to join the Ouachita Little Theatre (OLT), where she has now served as the Music Director for 20 musicals, as well as a board member. Several years into her work with OLT, Kropp, noticing a need for local theater targeted specifically at students, decided to start the Junior Ouachita Little Theater (JOLT). Today she serves as their advisor and easily says that this is her passion. “I believe theater develops confidence in students. They get to know how to work as a group and how to make a project develop. They learn skills in running meetings and gain a whole new set of friends. In community theater anyone can be involved and no one sits on the bench, everyone has a place,” explained Kropp.
As a choir teacher, Kropp says her greatest moment was taking her group to sing at Carnegie Hall in 2001, the Thanksgiving after the horrifying attacks on the World Trade Center. Kropp took her choir to the very top, and then realized it was time for a change. After completing her Masters in Library Instructional Technology, Kropp accepted the position as Librarian at Mena High School (MHS), a job that brings her passion and interest full circle. “I thought back to working in a library while in high school and thought maybe that’s where I’m supposed to be. I love to read and I’ve always like high school the most. As a choir teacher I taught at different schools but now I get to stay in one building and have the age I like the best,” Kropp explained.
In addition to her work with the OLT, JOLT and MHS, Kropp serves as Co-Commander, with her husband, for the AWANA program at her home church, Grace Bible. During the school year children ages three through the fifth grade meet one night a week to learn Scripture verses, sing songs and play games. “I think it is important that kids learn Scripture and to have fun. I like the incentives that AWANA gives. I like that we take verses and teach children what they mean and how they are applicable to their young lives. AWANA at Grace Bible has been there for 32 years; obviously God is in it because even though many programs come and go, it has been able to continue on.
Kropp also works as the MHS National Honor Society Advisor and was named Mena High School Teacher of the Year for the 2013-2014 School Year.