Teach For America New York 1997
Managing Director and Financial Advisor, Truist Investment Services
Paul Bopp could nearly see the future from his childhood home.
He grew up in affluent Westchester County outside New York City, a place of privilege. Less than 10 miles distant as the pigeon flies, in the heart of the Bronx, stood Public School 67 (Mohegan School).
Privilege didn’t reach P.S. 67.
Bopp found himself in front of a classroom there after joining Teach For America in 1997. He taught middle school science.
“The impact on me was pretty profound,” he admitted. “I realized not everybody grows up with a mom and dad in a great situation, and I saw that the best lesson plan can be thrown out in the first five minutes by what’s happening in the community and in children’s lives. By real life.”
Bopp saw the clear contrast between his own Westchester school with “world-class facilities for academics, athletics, and the performing arts” and the gritty public school with broken windows, chipping paint, and 37 children in a class.
“It was a life lesson for me,” he said. “I learned how respect goes both ways, and you’ve got to meet people where they are.”
Today, Bopp meets people in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He and his team at Truist Investment Services provide financial planning to executives, business owners, and high net-worth families.
The trust he has earned in a 22-year career as a financial advisor makes him an able and valuable community partner. Bopp serves on various boards of directors for organizations focused on improving public education in The Palmetto State. He is a board member for Teach For America South Carolina, and he is treasurer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Upstate.
Bopp sees progress in South Carolina education. “I’m excited about the energy from the private sector,” he said. “They get it, the fact that we need an educated workforce. They understand that what we do needs to be continually improved, or we’ll have a tremendous amount of talent that’s not cultivated. I hear conversations start now with We’ve got the opportunity as opposed to Let me show you what’s not working.”
Teachers shaped Bopp’s life. He has been a teacher. So, it’s natural that he would champion education.
“We need more teachers, frankly,” he said. “And I believe we need to pay our teachers more.”
“Teaching needs to be a head-of-household profession. In my area, because of economics, it’s really seen as a supplementary profession. If we had a system where high-quality teachers were able to support a middle-income household, it would change the whole game. That needs to be reformed in this generation.”
His advice to educators is heavily informed by his experiences in P.S. 67 – the little school once so close, but so far away.
“Be as prepared as you can but know the best strategy can go out the window in three minutes,” said Bopp.
“If the kids don’t learn the phases of the moon the day you had planned, it’s okay. You’re going to get there. If you’ve got the right heart and the right spirit, you’re going to make a difference.”