Toby Emert, Ph.D., studied English and theatre as an undergraduate at Longwood College and began his career in the classroom with Virginia Beach City Public Schools as an English and drama teacher. He later directed an award-winning high school forensics and debate team for a small private school, for which he was named Virginia’s Forensics Coach of the Year and an “Outstanding Educator” by the Governor’s School of Virginia. After completing a master’s degree in Educational Administration at The College of William and Mary, he moved to the university setting, joining the staff of the Career Exploration Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He also holds graduate degrees from the University of Tennessee and the University of Virginia.
His work at the university level has included faculty appointments at the University of Virginia, Kennesaw State University, and the University of Kentucky. He currently holds the position of Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Education at Agnes Scott College, a small liberal arts college for women near Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches courses in language and literature, the arts and education, educational technology, and radical pedagogies.
His research and writing focus on issues of equity and access to quality education for groups of students who have traditionally been underserved and marginalized in schools and classrooms. He studies the work of Brazilian theatre artist/activist Augusto Boal, who developed a system of drama-based structures to highlight and disrupt oppression: Theatre of the Oppressed (TO). Dr. Emert has served as the president of the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (PTO) organization and has co-edited a collection of academic essays about TO titled, “Come Closer”: Critical Perspectives on Theatre of the Oppressed, with Dr. Ellie Friedland (Peter Lang, 2011).
He is committed to arts-infused pedagogy, and he has worked on a number of participatory action research projects with underachieving students for which the arts—specifically drama and digital storytelling—played prominent roles in engaging them with 21st century literacies.
For the past several years, he has partnered with the Fugees Family Organization, a non-profit devoted to providing services to the children of refugee families now living in the U.S. He has designed and overseen the implementation of a summer enrichment literacy program created to bolster the students’—all of whom are English-as-second-language learners—achievement in school and their confidence as learners. He has presented widely about the students’ responses to the curriculum, which asks them to engage with a series of intellectual and social challenges through project-based learning, technology-rich assignments, and authentic language-learning activities. He has published articles about the success of this initiative in Intercultural Education, Language Arts, Voices from the Middle, and in the edited collection, Framing Peace: Thinking About and Enacting Curriculum as Radical Hope.
Though his primary teaching responsibilities have been in the college setting for the past decade, he has been fortunate to continue to work in classrooms and with groups of teachers throughout the U.S.—offering classes, workshops, and in-service programs—and to serve as a guest teaching artist in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. He has developed partnerships with the National Writing Project (NWP), the Carnegie Center for Literacy, Young Audiences, and the Education Department of the Shakespeare Tavern to create enrichment programs for both students and teachers.
His work as a mentor for the National Urban Alliance dovetails nicely with his values as an educator committed to providing students classroom experiences that highlight their gifts, encourage their voices, and invite their engagement.