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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Emily Bonilla

9th-12th Grade Career and Technical Education-Media Production, Bloomfield Tech High School Bloomfield, NJ

At an early age Emily Bonilla followed her instinct to teach, missing her own high school graduation ceremony to teach a youth summer course on video production. She went on to hone her skills in media arts production at Emerson College and through her work with the New York Film Academy. While enjoying a successful career as a producer in New York City, Emily began searching for new challenges and an opportunity to share her knowledge. She found one at Bloomfield Tech, where she was tasked with developing the school’s media production program from the ground up.

Nine years and a Master’s degree in educational leadership from Thomas Edison State College later, Emily is a powerful example of the value of bringing real-life experience into the classroom—especially in career and technical education. Her students benefit from her expert instruction and her experience in the field: Like Emily, they learn by doing.

In the classroom, Emily's students work in groups to tweak sound in a studio, conduct film shoots outside the classroom, and write scripts for television and film. As they work independently, Emily bounces from group to group, giving subtle input but never taking ownership away from the students. As a result, they not only learn the real world skills needed to produce media, but also how to view it with a critical lens. In a room where many students do not feel their experiences are reflected on screen, Emily’s aim is to inspire them to participate in media, rather than just consume it. 

Her students have gone on to win numerous media awards, and have shown work nationally including at the Tribeca Film Festival. Sixty percent of them also go on to pursue communication-related majors in college and 97 percent enroll in post-secondary schools. In addition, Emily plays a major role in the development of first-year teachers at her school and has worked alongside New Jersey Senator Deborah Allen to craft media literacy legislation for the state.

“We are lucky to have a dynamic teacher who was a success in the film world and embraces the challenge to continue to grow herself, educate other teachers, and instill a lifelong love of learning in her students,” says her district superintendent.