Brian Charest

Assistant Professor
School of Education

Brian Charest

Areas of Expertise

  • Education reform
  • Teacher education
  • Engaged scholarship
  • Education Philosophy
  • Teaching writing
  • DIY Subcultures
  • Justice-oriented education
  • Civic and community engagement
  • Community organizing
  • Grassroots education reform
  • The prison-to-school pipeline
  • Teaching English


Ph.D. University of Illinois at Chicago- Chicago, IL
M.A. Roosevelt University- Chicago, IL, 
M.A. San Francisco State University- San Francisco, CA
B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz- Santa Cruz, CA

For the Media

Contact :
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P: 909.748.8933


Brian Charles Charest is a former public high school teacher who has taught in both Chicago and Seattle. He’s worked in a variety of educational settings with students of diverse backgrounds and identities. 

Brian earned his doctorate in English Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he taught community-engaged writing, academic writing, English methods, education foundations, and American literature. 

Brian also worked as an adjunct professor at DePaul University in Chicago, where he taught courses for aspiring teachers, including writing across the curriculum, teaching in urban schools, teaching literature, and teaching and reading young adult literature.

Most of Brian’s university teaching has involved community-based work of some kind, where students in his courses worked closely with local community-based organizations, schools, practicing teachers, and residents in "real world" settings. Brian draws on the traditions of community organizers and activist to help teachers learn the skills and strategies to be strong advocates for themselves, their students, and the communities in which they live and work. 

Brian is an advocate for publicly funded education and supports efforts to empower marginalized groups and disrupt structural inequalities. He has presented locally and nationally and published articles on teaching, ecological schooling, civic engagement, community organizing, social justice, ethics, and radical pragmatism. 

Area of Expertise/Academic Interest

Brian’s scholarly interests include education reform, teacher education, engaged scholarship, education philosophy, teaching writing, the use of DIY subcultures in and out of schools, justice-oriented education, civic and community engagement, community organizing, grassroots education reform strategies, the prison-to-school pipeline (and the disruption of the school-to-prison pipeline), and the teaching of English.

Professional Background Highlights

Brian has written chapters for several peer-reviewed collections and has published articles in English Education and the Journal of Language and Literacy Education. Brian's work centers on finding ways to link schools and communities in order to address the aspirations and concerns of students and their families in ways that matter to them.

Brian is currently co-editing and contributing to a book on teaching as an ethical commitment. The book explores how ethical commitments both shape practice and also help educators develop agency in different spaces. In particular, the book highlights different models for teaching and learning that challenge and offer counter narratives to current education reforms based on market-driven, accountability, and product-obsessed approaches to teaching and learning that often alienate and dehumanize teachers and students. 

K-12 Experience

Recently, Brian worked in Seattle, WA, at the Nova Project, a democratically run, Dewey-inspired, alternative public high school with a social justice mission. The Nova Project supports inquiry-based learning where students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding through projects, performances, presentations, and teaching. 

At Nova, students do not receive grades; instead, students earn credit by working with others to ask questions about what is worth knowing and doing. Students at Nova participate in school governance, make budget and hiring decisions, teach courses, and work with teachers to develop curriculum. 

At Nova, Brian taught a range of courses, including courses on graphic novels, writing as social action, ethics, Shakespearean tragedies, community engagement, documentary films, and the history of skateboarding. Brian sees the Nova Project as an important model of publicly funded, democratic  education.

Before working at Nova, Brian taught in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), teaching at a high school on the far South Side of the city, where he worked with community organizers and community-based organizations on a variety of civic-engagement projects. Brian was also a service-learning coordinator for CPS, where he worked alongside students, parents, community members, and teachers on issues that mattered to them. 


Degrees Held/ Licensures

Ph.D., English Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, 2013
M.A., Special Education, Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL, 2005
M.A., English, San Francisco State University, 2001
B.A., English, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1995


Charest, B. C. (2017). The way it’s going: Neoliberal reforms and the colonization of the American school. In D. Loveless, P. Sullivan, K. Dredger, & J. Burns (Eds.), Deconstructing the education-industrial complex in the digital age (Ch. 1, pp. 1-23). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Charest, B. C. (2014, July). Ecological schooling: Questions, curriculum, and the power of place. Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online]. Retrieved from

Charest, B.C., Bell, L.D., Gonzalez, M., & Parker, V.L. (2014). Turning schools inside out: Connecting schools and communities through public arts and literacies. Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 10(1), 188-203. Retrieved from

Miller, S., Williamson, P., George, M., King, J., Charest, B., Bieler, D., & Bolf-Beliveau, L. (2011). Applying the CEE Position Statement "Beliefs about Social Justice in English Education" to Classroom Praxis. English Education, 44(1), 63-82. Retrieved from

Charest, B. C. (2011) Toward a theory and practice of radical pragmatism. In B. J. Porfilio and H. Hickman (Eds.), Critical service-learning as revolutionary pedagogy (pp. 297-314). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Press.

Peer-refereed Conferences and Presentations:
“Running the Course of Dissent: A Dialogue on Pedagogy, Politics, and Ethics.” ASA Conference, Chicago, IL, November 2017

“Toward a New Social Order: Voices of Students and Prisoners in the Era of Mass Incarceration.” NCTE Conference, St. Louis, MO, November 2017.

“Acts of Knowing: Ethical Commitments in the English Classroom.” CEE Conference, Columbus, OH, June 2017

“From Advocates to Accomplices: New Pragmatism(s) for the Age of Reform.” NCTE Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, November 2016.

“Through Choice of Action: (Re)Visionary Pragmatisms for the Age of Accountability.” AESA Annual Conference, Seattle, WA, November 2016. (designated a Reviewers’ Choice Session)

“The Way It’s Going: Neoliberalism and the Colonization of the American Public
School.” NCTE Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN, November, 2015.

“Turning Schools Inside Out: Teacher Voices, Community Engagement, and Intentional Relationship Building.” JoLLE Annual Conference, Athens, GA, February, 2014.

“The Making of Citizen Teachers: Community Organizing and Engagement in Teacher Education.” NCTE Annual Conference, Boston, MA, November, 2013.

“Learning as a Way of Teaching: Perspectives on Teaching Methods.” CEE Conference, Fort Collins, CO. July, 2013.

“Honoring Experience, Imaging Alternatives: Pedagogical Possibilities in English
Education.” NCTE Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV, November, 2012.

“The Future is Now: Connecting with the Next Generation of English Teacher
Educators.” NCTE Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV, November, 2012.

“Civic Literacy and Community Engagement: Teacher Education, Community
Organizing, and Neoliberal Mandates.” To Learn and To Serve: Critical Service-
Learning Initiatives and Community Engagement Conference, Columbus, OH, October, 2012.

“Authorizing Ourselves to Act: Teachers, Community Organizing, and School Reform.” NCTE Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, November, 2011.

“A Responsibility to Act: Preservice Teachers Organizing for Change.” NCTE Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, November, 2011. Chair.

"Troubling Pre-Service Intersections: Uncertainty and Anxiety in English Education.” NAME Conference. Chicago, IL, November, 2011.

“Community Organizing, Collaborative Action, and Teacher Education.” CEE
Conference. Bronx, NY, June, 2011. “Radical Pragmatism and the English Methods Course: Exploring What Counts as Curriculum.” NCTE Annual Conference, Orlando, FL, November, 2010.

“Radical Pragmatism and the English Methods Course: Critical Frameworks, Student Resistance, and Community Partnerships.” International Conference on Teacher Education and Social Justice, Chicago, IL, December 2009.

“Building a Curriculum of Possibility: A Reflection on Partnership.” NCTE Annual
Conference, Philadelphia, PA, November 2009

“Re-thinking Service Learning: Civic Engagement as School-Based Activism.” CEE Conference, Chicago, IL, June 2009.

“Toward a Theory of Radical Pragmatism: A Story of School-Based Activism.” NCTE Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX, November, 2008.

“Implementing Service-Learning Throughout the District.” National Service-Learning Conference, Albuquerque, NM, March, 2007.

“Strategies for Implementing a School-Wide Service Learning Program: An Urban
Example of Student and Teacher Engagement.” 3rd Annual Urban Service-Learning Institute, Nashville, TN, 2006.

Professional Affiliations/Professional Societies/Community Memberships

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
Conference on English Education (CEE)
Modern Language Association (MLA)
National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME)
American Studies Association (ASA)


Chancellor’s Service Award, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2013
Teacher of the Year (presented by the South Side Chamber of Commerce), 2007
Service Learning Coach of the Year (presented by the Chicago Public Schools Office of High School Programs), 2007