As a University of Illinois Extension County Director, Karla Belzer provides leadership and supervision for Extension efforts in a multi-county unit. Through her interactive, facilitative approach, she promotes and supports Extension staff and supervises programming while establishing and facilitating relationships with community partners, county government, and other stakeholders.
Before becoming a county director, Belzer served as an Extension Educator for seven years, providing research-informed, outcome-oriented programming on life issues affecting families with children, adults, and individuals as they age. She provided mindfulness education to promote stress reduction and well-being throughout the lifespan. Through educational efforts focused on brain health, she encouraged brain-healthy lifestyle factors to adults of all ages. For educators and childcare providers, her focus on trauma and adverse childhood experiences provided professionals with current strategies and techniques to best serve children in their care. As Belzer delivered education content and programming in many life wellness areas, she remains most passionate about empowering others to be their best selves.
Prior to entering the Extension field, Belzer worked in the health and human services field for nearly 20 years in both direct care and administrative roles. At Exceptional Care and Training Center, she worked as a Program Director supervising all aspects of quality-of-life programming for individuals who experience developmental disabilities. Previous work experiences include employment as a Recreational Therapist in a variety of clinical and community-based settings, as a social worker, and as a Director of Rehabilitation at a community-based work program for individuals with disabilities.
Belzer earned a Bachelor's Degree in Recreation Administration from Eastern Illinois University in 2000 and a Master’s Degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Indiana University in 2002. She actively works towards remaining updated with current research and trends regarding quality of life issues by regularly seeking additional subject matter training and certifications. She has been a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) by the National Council on Therapeutic Recreation Certification since 2001.
She is a certified Real Colors facilitator, Better Brains for Babies educator, Matter of Balance leader, and Chronic Disease Self-Management/Diabetes Self-Management class instructor. To further mindfulness education in schools and communities, she is trained as a Mindful Schools educator. Belzer is also trained to implement and facilitate Community Action Poverty Simulations from the Missouri Community Action Network and All My Money financial management programs from the University of Illinois Extension.
Belzer’s professional associations include National Extension Association of Family of Consumer Sciences, Illinois Association of Family and Consumer Sciences , and Epsilon Sigma Phi.
As an Extension Educator, Belzer’s programming accomplishments, teamwork, and leadership are recognized on a state and national level. Included among her awards and recognitions are the Past Presidents New Professional Award from the National Association for Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS); Interdisciplinary Unit Team Award from the University of Illinois Extension; Innovation in Programming Award, Early Childhood Care Training Award, Human Development/Family Relationships Award, and Florence Hall Award from NEAFCS; and the Early Career Award from Epsilon Sigma Phi Alpha Nu Chapter.
Belzer is an active community member in her northwest Illinois community. She volunteers her time as a Cub Scout Den leader and as a United Way volunteer. She is a member of Oneighty Church and a co-founder of the Dixon Make-A-Wish 5k. In her spare time, Belzer enjoys walking her dogs, hiking with her family, gardening, travel, and spending time outdoors.
Select Educational Efforts
- Importance of Rituals and Routines During Trying Times, tip sheet
- Communicating with Children During Stressful Times, tip sheet and video
- Helping Children Cope in Times of stress, tip sheet and video
- Mindful Moments, video series
- Discover Brain Health Webinar Series: Head Strong, webinar
- Discover Wellness Webinar Series: Being Mindful in a Stressful World, webinar
- 5 Minute Mindfulness for Daily Life, blog