Press

BSA Founding Teacher Nominated as a Hometown Hero

June 24, 2013
Danielle Bero is nominated for a Hometown Heroes award for her work as a creative writing teacher with disadvantaged kids.

We are pleased to announce that one of our founding teachers, Ms. Danielle Bero, has been nominated for a Hometown Hero Award by the Daily News!

See the full article in the Daily News or read the content below.

Teacher makes connection between writing schoolwork and students' lives

Nearly half of the students in Danielle Bero's class are homeless or in foster care, and almost all come from low-performing middle schools and meet federal standards for a free lunch. For these kids, concentrating in class can be almost impossible. But Bero's approach to writing and speech - from poetry slams to screenwriting - is engaging the students, and earning her a nomination for a Hometown Heroes in Education award.

For her amazing ability to inspire students, a creative writing teacher at a Manhattan school for troubled kids was tapped for a Hometown Heroes in Education award this week.

Queens native Danielle Bero, 28, connects with students at the Broome Street Academy Charter High School in SoHo by encouraging them to express themselves through poetry, screenplays and letters to pen pals overseas.

Nearly half of her students are homeless or in foster care, and almost all come from low-performing middle schools and meet federal standards for a free lunch. For these kids, concentrating in class can be almost impossible.

But Bero keeps them engaged with creative assignments that draw on their own life experiences. No topic is considered off-limits or too difficult to tackle in her class.

"I create a safe space for students to talk about whatever they want," said Bero, who has taught at the Academy since it was founded in 2011. "They know they can share anything and nobody will judge them for it."

Bero's inspiration for teaching at-risk youth in the city came from stints studying in Africa and working as a teacher in Indonesia after she graduated college.

That's when she came to believe that even young people who face dire situations, such as war and extreme poverty, can find solace and strength from creative projects.

And Bero said her background - attending Queens public schools and Lafayette College on a scholarship - helps her forge a special connection with her students.

"The students connect with me because I came from a similar background and I understand where they're coming from," said bero, whose class is mandatory for freshmen.

She tries to make her assignments as accessible and inspiring as possible for her students. Poetry slams and screenplay-writing exercises are class favorites so far.

The goal, said Bero, is to forge a connection between schoolwork and her students' lives outside of class, even if the subjects can be difficult.

Sexuality, domestic violence, addiction, homelessness and racism are among the topics that Bero's students have confronted in their coursework.

Jayda Estrada, a freshman from the Bronx, said the class takes kids out of their comfort zone, but in a way that allows them to feel confident in what they have to say.

"It taught me to stand up for what I believe in, in a creative way," said Jayda, 15. "It's okay to have opinions when you write. You can say what you want."

Bero, who also runs the school's creative writing and performance club, and coaches the basketball teams, said she's happiest when her students feel empowered.

"I want to provide them with a safe and productive environment so they're not on the streets," said Ber. "Whatever it is, at least I'm in the room with them."