Life Lessons from Literature and Poetry with Dr. Brent Robida

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 29, 2024 at 12:00 PM

By: Asha Gandreti ’25

Dr. Brent Robida, an esteemed educator in the Upper School English department, is widely known for cultivating an encouraging and inspiring classroom environment. He currently teaches Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature and Composition along with AP English Language and Composition, incorporating poetry, creative writing, and engaging classroom activities throughout all of his lessons. 


At the commencement of the Class of 2024, Dr. Robida was awarded The Jain Family Senior Class Teaching Award. Established in 2014, the award recognizes and honors outstanding teaching from the perspective of those individuals who have benefited most from that teacher’s expertise —the students.

In selecting Dr. Robida, students described him as a “calm, warm teacher and literary expert who brings a wealth of knowledge and a creative flair to the classroom each day.” He cultivates an environment where students are encouraged to actively participate, discuss, and analyze poetry and prose in a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment. They said Dr. Robida works to facilitate activities that promote deep thinking, and is inclusive of all of his students’ ideas.

Students quickly learn that coursework is taught at a sophisticated level, that expectations are high, and that the workload can be challenging. However, they finish the year successfully, because he does whatever it takes to help them understand and master the material. 

One highlight of Dr. Robida’s robust curriculum this year included a creative project on Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” where students had the opportunity to construct a project of any medium: digital video production, painting and artwork, poetry, and countless others. This provided a creative outlet for students to grow personal understanding and build a connection with the text, a truly unique and valuable aspect of Dr. Robida’s courses. Additionally, along with preparing students for the AP exams, Dr. Robida incorporates personal writing opportunities each day for students to get a feel of generating quality writing in a limited amount of time, a skill that will last his students a lifetime. 


Dr. Robida was born in Virginia. As a child, his father worked for the Ford Motor Company, so his family moved to different states frequently. He lived just outside of Detroit in West Bloomfield and soon after moved to the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. Then, at the age of eleven, he moved to Atlanta, where he went to high school and continued his education at the University of Georgia. 


Reflecting upon his experience as an English student, Dr. Robida recalls reading “An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding,” a short philosophical treatise by David Hume, in his sophomore year of high school. Dr. Robida reveals: “Reading Hume marked first time I noticed all of these dim instincts of something infinite within myself, of what the world might be, and of how each of us is all of us.” Falling in love with ideas and language, Dr. Robida admitted, led him to majoring in English and studying Romantic poetry.


Dr. Robida remained in the southeast, receiving his master's at Clemson University and his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He taught at the collegiate level from 2007 to 2018 at Clemson University, the University of Tennessee, a two-year school in North Carolina, a military school in Virginia, a Catholic school in Knoxville, finally arriving at Pine Crest in July of 2022. Dr. Robida admits,  “I learn so much being a teacher. The students are great teachers, whether they realize this or not. The victories in the classroom stay with you as private, incommunicable pleasures; the defeats are equally incommunicable, and you carry them with you just like the joyful moments.”


In 2018, Dr. Robida made his transition to teaching high school students. “I always knew I loved English, literature, ideas, and philosophy—talking about ‘why’,” he said. 

Dr. Robida began searching for a high school with an intense intellectual and academic environment for students. Pine Crest was a perfect fit for him. “I love the energy here,” Dr. Robida smiles. “I love how each student burns with the unique verities of their heart and mind.” But “it’s more than that too,” Dr. Robida continues: “A great prep school like Pine Crest allows all of us here to venture beyond ourselves and discover the truth of our spirits reflected in suffering and sublimity of others seemingly different from ourselves.” 


Dr. Robida is known for emphasizing the importance of poetry and where we can see overlap in the themes of poetry in our daily lives. “As you get older, you understand how important it is to make moral claims and to stand for something larger than yourself,” Dr. Robida said. He also discusses his close connection to the poetry of W.H Auden: “Poets like Auden are so important to our civilization because they show us not only our profound insufficiencies when it comes to kindness, selflessness, and love but also our profound potential when it comes to kindness, selflessness, and love.” 


This year, Dr. Robida’s classes wrote a research paper on a poet of their choice, where they had the freedom to explore two of their chosen poets’ works. Students honed in on all of the writing skills they developed throughout the year, while simultaneously exploring and implementing key ideas and literary devices present in the AP curriculum. Ultimately, as an exercise in scholarly debate and research, the paper helped prepare Pine Crest students for the kind of writing colleges will demand of them.

Each day, Dr. Robida inspires students’ academic growth and development as human beings. His passion for literature, life, and language, accompanied by his innovative teaching style will undoubtedly leave a mark on all of his students, encouraging a lifelong love for literature.

Topics: Upper School, Faculty, Academics, 2024