Phil Bildner, 41, grew up in the New York City suburb of Jericho, Long Island. He attended the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he received his undergraduate degree in political science. Phil then attended the New York University School of Law (J.D. ’90) and was admitted to the bar in both New York and New Jersey.
Phil went to work for a large Manhattan law firm; however, after working there for about a year, Phil realized a career in the field of law was not for him. Phil’s first love was always teaching and working with children, so he decided to pursue a career in education. Phil went back to school and earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Long Island University.
At the same time, Phil also began teaching in the New York City Public Schools. For his first five years as a teacher, he taught fifth and sixth grade in the Tremont section of the South Bronx. Because of the poor conditions at the school, Phil often had to teach without classroom basics – paper, pencils or chalk for the blackboard. As a result, he had to devise creative and innovative ways to conduct his class. He incorporated music and song lyrics into his language arts curriculum, and his inspired approach brought musical groups such as the Dave Matthews Band, Barenaked Ladies, Blues Traveler, and Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean of The Fugees to his classroom. Phil’s class was also featured on the CBS television program, Coast to Coast.
In 1998, Phil transferred schools, to P.S. 333, the Manhattan School for Children, located in Upper Manhattan. For six years, Phil taught English and American History to the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Of course, at MSC, his classroom continued to be a playground for creativity. He once again integrated music and the arts into his curriculum by working with Lincoln Center, theatre companies, Off-Broadway shows, and various museums and cultural institutions
During his tenure at MSC, Phil’s first picture book was published by Simon & Schuster. Not surprisingly, Phil incorporated his experiences as a writer into his teachings. As a year-end project, students picked a topic in history or an historical figure, researched the subject area, and shaped it into their own books to be shared with their peers as well as with children in younger grades.
Phil left the classroom in 2006 in order to write full time. In addition to his picture books (Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy, The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, Twenty One Elephants, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Turkey Bowl, The Hallelujah Flight) and teen novels (Playing the Field, Busted), Phil is the co-creator (with Loren Long) of The New York Times bestselling chapter book series, Sluggers! This winter, the fifth and penultimate book in the series hits shelves.
But Phil wasn’t able to stay away from teaching and educational experiences for very long. In July 2007, he began chaperoning student-volunteer trips to Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. With The Nola Project, he strives to bring his beliefs in community and equality to new heights. Working with non-profit and service organizations around the world, Phil has set out to create unprecedented and unparalleled volunteer and learning experiences for the leaders of tomorrow.