• Ed.D. Learning and Teaching, Harvard University, 1999
  • Ed.M. Technology in Education, Harvard University, 1990
  • B.A. Humanistic Studies, Johns Hopkins University, 1986

Before COA

Bonnie started teaching during college when she worked summers for the Island School, a summer enrichment program for urban middle-schoolers on Thompson Island in the Boston Harbor.  After college, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching Math and English at Mahalapye Community Junior Secondary School in Botswana.  During her first graduate program, she developed a keen interest in increasing access and equity in higher education, and followed her first graduate degree working at Brandeis University as Associate Director of Admissions and Curriculum Specialist for Student Support Services. After earning her doctorate, she has focused on educator preparation, primarily at the undergraduate but also graduate levels.

Scholarly and Creative Interests

Bonnie Tai is a faculty member in Educational and Human Studies. Her primary teaching and research interests focus on contemplative, democratic, experiential, and culturally sustaining and revitalizing education. A major area of research interest is Buddhist philosophy, psychology, and contemplative practices and their contributions to our understanding of the nature of knowledge, mind, and human experience. Two overarching goals have driven her work over the last twenty-plus years: to enhance access, equity, and quality in education and facilitate learning, teaching, and leadership that values individual and group differences and helps communities effectively negotiate conflict and change. As peer, advisor, teacher, and mentor, Bonnie aims to help educators put theory into practice through critical exploration and place-based education.

More Information about my Courses

If you enroll in one of my classes, then it is likely you will be engaged in an interdisciplinary and collaborative exploration that challenges dualistic conceptions of mind and body, self and other, human and environment. My courses also engage the personal with the academic, the vital relationships between school and community, and the synthesis of theory, research, and practice. I aim to engage my students in experiential, service-, and justice-learning that is place-based, including contextualizing the present within historical and global patterns and interrelationships.

More About Me

As a non-conservatory student who nevertheless had the privilege of studying with the late Yong Ku Ahn, formerly at the Peabody Conservatory, the late William Thomas, founding member of the Coleridge Ensemble, and the late Alfred Krips, formerly of the Boston Symphony, I have performed with the Maitisong Festival Orchestra in Gaborone, Botswana, in the pit orchestra for a production of Scott Joplin’s opera, “Treemonisha,” and the Maryland Women’s Symphony, an all-women’s orchestra playing works by women composers and conducted by a woman conductor. When I am not working, I enjoy yoga and meditation, silent retreats, growing garlic and other beautiful and healthful plants, making music, motorcycling, and exploring places both near and far on foot, by bike, or in/on the water.

Community Engagement and Advocacy

I serve on the advisory council of MDI Adult and Community Education, as a Hancock County Advisor for the Maine Community Foundation, and on the board of Unified Asian Communities.


Selected publications

In progress. Co-authored with COA alumnae A. Plummer, S. Kearsley, and B. Heidemann. Trust: Foundation to passion-driven, student-activist, and community-engaged learning. In Schlein, C., & Crump, S. (Eds.), Active and Engaging Classrooms: A Practical Exploration. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

2021. Engaging the subject before the word. In M. Delaney & S. Mayer (Eds.), In Search of Wonderful Ideas: Critical Exploration in Teacher Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

2013. Witness to learning. In W. Shorr, S. Hoidn, C. Lowry & E. Cavicchi (Eds.), Always Wondering.  Cambridge, MA: Critical Exploration Press.

Fall, 1998. Power Dynamics in the Classroom.  Harvard Educational Review, 68, 3.

Winter, 1997. C. Woyshner & B. Tai (Eds.). Special Issue on Women’s Educational History, Harvard Educational Review, 67, 4.



Selected presentations

April 7, 2023. “The Power of Partnerships: Empowering Everyday Resilience.” Invited panelist at a plenary session, New England Educational Opportunity Association Annual Conference, Portland, ME.

July, 2019.  Critical exploration in the culturally sustaining classroom: A meditation on decolonizing teacher education. Paper presented at the Summer Conference of the Association of Teacher Educators. Burlington, VT.

October, 2015. Teacher and youth leader development in Nepal: A transdisciplinary case study of an international K-16 partnership. Paper Presentation at the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies. North Andover, MA: Merrimack College.