Last year on his birthday, George Roycroft ’90 heard a knock at his door. When he opened it, he was surprised to find a young woman holding a cake. As recognition washed over him, his eyes brimmed with tears. The now-24-year-old adult standing before him was a former student he had taught long ago—when she was only in the 5th grade.
It may seem unusual that a student George taught more than a decade ago would show up on his doorstep to wish him a happy birthday, but it is just a reflection of the same care and attention George has shown each of his students throughout his career. In fact, he knocked on a few doors himself this year, checking in on students who had not been logging on for class during pandemic-prompted virtual learning.
As a teacher for Baltimore City Public Schools, George knows how easily kids can slip through the cracks of the public education system. When COVID-19 caused schools to shut their doors and scramble to pull together new models for distance learning, George immediately recognized a need for many of his students who did not have access to technology and therefore could not participate in virtual classes or complete online coursework.
“I reached out to my MSJ classmate Brendan Kelly ’90 and he came through in a huge way, donating 50 pieces of new and refurbished technology,” George says. “I drove all over Baltimore City delivering each laptop to my students who had nothing.”
George currently teaches 6th- and 8th-grade U.S. History at National Academy Foundation School and was recently recognized by the administration for having the highest attendance and student engagement in his classes—a huge feat considering the circumstances many students have been facing this year. From lack of internet access to difficult home life situations, there are a variety of reasons why students have struggled to keep up with distance learning. George takes note when his students don’t “show up” for class. And if a call to their parents doesn’t improve attendance, he goes knocking.
“I do my best the keep them all engaged and make it fun so that they want to log on for class,” George explains. “I try to build relationships virtually and show them I can care and love them from a distance.”
George’s philosophy in his classrooms (both physical and virtual) stems from his experience growing up in Catholic schools. “I teach the way I learned,’” George says. “I can say every teacher I had at Saint Joe has been pivotal in my educational outlook.”
As one of the few male teachers at his school, George feels a responsibility not just to teach the curriculum but also to be a good role model and offer lessons that his students can carry with them far beyond middle school.
“Teaching in an urban environment, specifically Baltimore City, the students don’t see a lot of men who look like them and dress in a shirt and tie. I want them to see what professionalism looks like,” George says. “I also try to teach a lot of life lessons. The best teacher is experience, and I have experienced a lot of the same things these kids have growing up in the city. I tell them, ‘Don’t let that be your excuse to not be productive.’”
By encouraging hard work and good habits, George is constantly preparing his students to answer with purpose and zeal any time opportunity comes knocking.