During her 18 years at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Dr. Tolbert has taught a range of courses in History, from nine different undergraduate courses to seven different graduate courses. Her teaching philosophy emphasizes learning history by "doing history" whereby she teaches students how to "think as historians". "Teaching disciplinary ways of knowing", she explains, "prepares students for the kind of life-long learning they will need to embrace for personal and professional success in the modern world." She uses non-traditional teaching methods like "history workshops", mini-lectures, collaborative learning, research workshops, writing workshops, and she uses primary historical sources versus textbooks. An undergraduate student described her as "an exemplary teacher" who creates "an environment that supports student learning and... challenges them to exceed their assumed limitations." Another student explained:
"Never accepting an 'easy answer', she gently pushes her students to look closely at historical developments, to ask difficult questions, and to seek nuanced understandings. In retrospect, I never felt more challenged than under her instruction, but the discoveries I made in her courses-both about the historical discipline and about myself-were the most affirming of my graduate experience."
While her work with students is outstanding, Dr. Tolbert also established herself as a pedagogical leader throughout the University. When she arrived at UNCG, she developed a set of new courses in American Cultural History. In 1999, Dr. Tolbert partnered with the Interior of Architecture Department to co-create two new graduate concentrations in Public History-one in Historic Preservation and the other in Museum Studies. Dr. Bolton, History Department Head, described the Museum Studies program as "now one of the Department's (and the College's) most successful MA programs." As Chair of the General Education Council from 2007-2010, she spearheaded campus-wide discussion and revision of the General Education program to improve its "intentionality and coherence". Her work drew praise from a colleague, who called her "a Niagara Falls of pedagogical ideas" and admired her "unwavering dedication to great teaching... UNCG is a much better University because of her efforts."
Recently, Dr. Tolbert partnered with the Bryan School of Business and Economics to create a curriculum for the Living-Learning Community centered on Entrepreneurship and Sustainability. Additionally, Dr. Tolbert serves as the Social Studies program coordinator and helped revise the Social Studies teaching licensure program. She "was the primary architect of the current program, which is a drastic improvement" (Dr. Wayne Journell, School of Education).
Dr. Tolbert received her baccalaureate in 1983 in History and Fine Arts from Vanderbilt University, her master's degree in History from the University of Delaware in 1987, and her doctoral degree in American History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1994. She came to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as an assistant professor in 1994 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2000.