Teach For America Greater Philadelphia, 2023
High School Math and Public Speaking Teacher, Vaux Big Picture High School
If you had asked Bancroft Daley as a student what he wanted to do for a career, a job in education would not have been on the list–let alone a career as a public speaker, a voice against inequity, and someone who aspires to reshape students’ experiences in Philadelphia as a first-year, full-time teacher for TFA.
Coming from a low-income background and attending public school in an area of Connecticut where wealth disparities are drastic, he felt pressured to fit in and entertain. His teachers largely appeared well off and accomplished, leading lifestyles that Daley felt he would never have access to. While he knew he was talented at public speaking, he wasn’t considering college.
“I didn’t see how my life and their life made sense in the same conversation,” he says. “They weren’t really the type of people that explained the ups and downs of life. They just always told me that I had to do better. And if I didn’t do better, I would never be successful. And I think that’s the wrong message.”
Discovering the Value of Education
After graduating high school, faced with a dead-end job, Daley felt lost, like he was wasting his potential. He applied to college, promising his family he would get his associate’s degree and succeed professionally if they believed in him.
He had intended to get in and get out after two years. But to his surprise, on graduation day, he found that he wanted to continue his journey in education: His family was so proud of him that he wanted to see that pride again.
“My grandmother, along with everybody, came to my graduation,” he says. “And my grandmother asked me if we could do that again–if we could do graduation again.” He went back not once, but twice, to get his bachelor’s in business, then master’s in human rights.
Beyond his family’s pride, Daley found that he liked the educational environment. As a diversity agent at his college tasked with supporting inclusion initiatives, he was able to talk in public about his experiences as an African-American man who uses a wheelchair for mobility, educating others using his personal experience. And his human rights education connected with him in terms of what he had seen growing up–that equitable access to a supportive education environment for people of all backgrounds was a matter of social justice.
He sought out an organization that would allow him to help students who understood the challenges that he had gone through, and that’s how he found Teach For America after graduating.
“It was an organization that could put me in a room with students who look and sound like me, who come from environments like mine, and I could really influence and impact them,” he says.
Putting Equity into Practice
According to Daley, his past experience better enables him to reach the kids he teaches–his background is now an asset. He talks with students about what’s challenging them at home and outside of school, as well as what’s happening in school, with the understanding that what’s happening on the outside can make today’s lesson feel irrelevant. He’s been able to develop his approach to teaching through that experience–opening up the class for honest and authentic conversations about whatever is on student’s minds in order to engage them at the start of class, and giving them the opportunity to ramp up and down their participation according to stress level through regular check-ins.
It’s this approach that he’s taken with him to his full-time position at Vaux Big Picture High School, a Philadelphia school that provides both professional and college-based paths for its students. From there, he wants to continue his leadership path–he’s already given a TEDx talk, fulfilling his public speaking dreams from childhood, and he wants to continue to make a larger and larger impact in his education career.
“I think you’ll see me in a principal spot sooner than later,” he says.